Identity of Spies

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					Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline




                                    Chapter 1



              The ambulance raced down the two lane road through the

      green pastures of Tennessee as Kathryn Timms convulsed under

      the nylon straps of the gurney inside.      Through her tears

      she could see a blur of an EMT drawing medication from a

      vial.    Just as the man punctured Kathryn’s skin with the 22

      gauge needle, she squirmed, lodging the needle deep in her

      arm.    She had wanted to make the convulsions look real to

      gain access to the clinic, but hadn’t counted on the EMTs

      using sedatives.

              “Goddamnit.   I missed,” he said.

              “Fucking rookie,” the other said, grabbing her arm.

      “Give her to me.”     The second one jerked Kathryn’s arm into

      the light and found the vein.      “It’s all in the wrist,” he

      said and laughed.

              The jarring of the gurney awoke Kathryn and in her

      medicated fog, she could hear the commotion of the emergency

      room.

              “Talk to me, Ray?” the doctor asked running along side
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        2


      of the patient.

            “Found her at the Jensen’s hardware store,” the EMT

      replied, speaking quickly.     “Mr. Jensen said she began

      having seizures back by where they keep the nails and

      screws.”

            “Vitals?”

            “Pretty normal.     Pulse 80, BP 120 over 90.   Temp 98.5,”
      replied the EMT.

            Kathryn felt the soft hands of the doctor as he lifted

      one eyelid to check the pupil.     “What’s your name?”    He was

      a black man who looked too young to be a doctor.       He had a

      smooth, soothing voice and a warm, caring touch.

            “I.D. says Melanie Tillman,” answered Ray.      “Thirty.

      From Michigan.     No one at Jensen’s knew her.”

            “Melanie,” the doctor said, stroking her hair.      “You’re

      going to be fine.     “I’m Doctor Langston.    We’re going to

      take good care of you,” he said as he lifted the other

      eyelid.    “Is there someone we can call?”

            She rolled her head side to side.       The effects of the

      sedative were making everything around happen very slowly,
      yet so quickly she could barely keep track of what had just

      occurred.    The last thing she remembered was the bright

      penlight in her eye.

            Kathryn awoke in the private room.      The brightness of

      the walls under the florescent light stung her sleepy eyes.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                           3


       She rubbed the crust from the corners as a nurse walked in.

              “Well, look who’s awake,” the nurse said cheerily.

      “How are you feeling?”        She was a slim faced brunette with

      big hips, and said her name was Suzy, with an ‘y.’

              “Okay, I guess,” Kathryn said.      “Where am I?”

              “The T. Edgar Williams Clinic just outside of

      Brooksville,” she said with a flair of pride.        “I hear
      you’re not from around here, Melanie.”

              She had to think twice about her new alias.     “No,” she

      said.    “I’m just passing through.”

              “You caused quite an episode at Jensen’s.     I don’t

      think he’s had that much excitement since his paint shaker

      exploded, spraying Chemise Coral all over his wallpaper

      display.    He calls it Chemise Coral, but everyone else calls

      it pink.    I guess Mr. Jensen just don’t think it’s right to

      have a pink hardware store, ‘cause he yells every time

      someone calls it pink.”       She shook her head as if in

      disbelief.       “Now that was something.    I wasn’t there, but I

      heard.    Everybody heard.”

              “Must’ve been pretty exciting,” Kathryn said as she

      looked around the room for her daypack.        She was feeling

      much better.      The effects of the drugs had subsided.      “Have

      you seen my bag?”

              “Sure.    It’s in the locker.   Want me to get it?”

              “Get what?”   A woman said, her tobacco-taxed voice
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         4


      coming from behind Suzy.      Kathryn remembered the voice.    It

      was a voice she’d tried, but could never forget.

            Suzy’s eyes grew wide, and Kathryn couldn’t tell if she

      was feigning fear or truly scared.

            “Her daypack,” Suzy said, her voice trembling.

            “It’s in the locker,” the Mothersole rasped in a

      lifelong smoker’s voice.      “Go get it.”   As Mothersole got
      closer, Kathryn could smell the mix of nicotine, burnt

      tobacco and rubbing alcohol on her.      Her face was fat and

      wrinkled, and her eyes were permanently squinted.      Her hair

      was dark gray and wiry like tangible smoke.       “Been here

      before?” she asked.      It wasn’t a friendly question.   “You

      look familiar.”

            “No.   Just passing through,” Kathryn replied.

            “To where?”    Mothersole asked.

            Kathryn was about to answer when Suzy burst through the

      door holding the forest green daypack and Kathryn’s clothes.

       “Here you go.     Everything’s accounted for.”

            “You searched my pack?”     Kathryn said indignantly.      She

      knew they would.     It was procedure.   But she had to act
      surprised.

            “Melanie,” Nurse Mothersole began, talking to her as if

      she were a four year old.     “Sometimes people come to

      hospitals after they’ve tried to hurt themselves.      We must

      make sure that they can’t do that in here.      Can you
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      5


      understand that?”

            “Yes, Nurse Mothersole,” Kathryn said obediently and

      shifted her eyes to the window.    “If it’s okay, I’d like to

      be alone now.”     The window faced west, and the long shadows

      approached her as the sun came to rest for the evening.

            She gave them five minutes to think of a reason to

      return, then hopped out of bed and checked the corridor.
            Empty.    She grabbed a note pad from her pack, gathered

      the ATM receipts from her wallet, and spread them on the bed

      in front of her, arranging them in chronological order.

      They were all from the First Bank of Tennessee in Nashville.

      She took the first number from the account balance and wrote

      it down.    From the second receipt, she wrote down the second

      number from that account balance, and so on with the rest.

            She continued writing the numbers that corresponded

      with the balances until she ran out of receipts.    When she

      was through, she had a series of number groups--the first

      with four numbers, the second with six numbers, the third

      with four numbers and the fourth with five.    The computer

      password didn’t need to be written down.    That, she had
      memorized.     Kathryn wadded the receipts and stuffed them

      into her pack, then wedged the notepaper into her panties

      for safe keeping.

            When midnight came, and the hospital was asleep,

      Kathryn dressed and peeked out the door.    The hall was dimly
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       6


      lit with no one in sight.     Her soft-sole shoes squeaked upon

      the polished gray tile as she crept down the hall, counting

      the rooms, looking for the one she stayed in five years ago.

       The overwhelming stench of urine pulsed as she passed by

      each room, and she wondered what other kind of experiments

      were being conducted at the clinic.

              Except for her noisy shoes, the rest of the clinic was
      silent.    No snoring, no screaming, no babies crying.    No

      code blues, and no crash carts.      She modified her gait just

      enough for the shoes to stop squeaking, making her as quiet

      as the rest of the patients.

              The door to her old room was closed.   She timidly

      approached and wondered if it was still a birthing room.        If

      so, she had to warn the mother.      She tried the door, but it

      was locked.    Kathryn pressed an ear against the steel door

      to listen for any sounds of life.

              She never heard the latch.   She never heard the door

      open, but suddenly in the doorway, an old man with pale

      blue-gray skin, yellow teeth surrounded by crackled purple

      lips, and red sagging eyes stood before her holding a crying
      baby.    The baby screamed for his mother--screamed for

      Kathryn.

              Kathryn bolted from the door, her shoes chirping on the

      smooth tile.    She looked back down the hall.   The man was

      gone, and the door was closed.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       7


            She was leaning against the wall praying her heart

      wasn’t beating as loudly as it sounded when a door across

      the hall opened, and a doctor stepped out.     Kathryn ducked

      into the nearest room, and watched as he passed by and into

      the lounge.

                                    *    *      *

            Dr. Langston saw Rick and Ray in the break room and was
      thankful he would have some company other than Nurse

      Mothersole tonight.      These guys weren’t the brightest, but

      at least they could carry on a conversation and didn’t smoke

      5 packs a day.     The AM radio was on as he walked in, and

      some blowhard was rambling on about black helicopters.

            "I can't believe you two listen to that guy," the

      doctor said.    He cracked open a small bottle of inexpensive

      spring water.     "He’s one of those anti-government wackos,

      preaching the gospel and proliferating militias."

            "He don't preach much gospel, Doc," Rick said.      "He

      just references it a lot.”

            “What’s the difference?”     Langston said and took a sip

      from his water.     “What’s he yapping about today?   How the
      FBI has murdered a bunch of women and children?       How the

      government can control the weather?"     He sat in one of the

      orange plastic chairs, putting his legs up on another chair.

      "This guy is worse than any daytime TV talk show host.”

            “Bullshit.    This guy knows what’s going on.    He’s ex-
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         8


      special forces,” Ray said.       “He used to work for the CIA.

      You know how they get their recruits, Doc?         They kidnap

      women from Russia, impregnate them with frozen sperm from

      dead American spies, and then the mother’s give up the kids

      at birth.”

            “Why Russian women?”       Langston asked.   “Why not

      American women?”
            “You may know a lot about medicine, Doc,” Rick said.

      “But you don’t know shit about the real world.”

            “Geeze, Doc.”     Ray said.    “Do we have to draw you a

      friggin’ picture?     They use Russian women so the baby’s know

      how to speak Russian.”        He sipped his coffee, looked to hid

      buddy Rick and chided, “How many years of college to be a

      doctor?”

            Dr. Langston laughed.       “I can see it now.   Welcome to

      the CIA Academy,” he began.       “First we’re going to learn

      about counter-terrorist driving, then infiltrating a foreign

      government’s embassy, and finish up with interrogation

      techniques guaranteed to make ‘em sing.       Then, when were all

      done, we’ll have graham crackers and milk, and take a nap on
      the mats.    If you have to go potty, just raise your hand.”

      The doctor turned off the radio and flipped on the TV.

            “Now, let’s deal with some real key issues,” he said as

      he switched to Nickelodeon.       “Let’s see what’s Spongebob’s

      up to?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                          9


            “Uh, we gotta go, Doc,” Ray said standing up suddenly.

      “Got a lot of work to do.”        Rick said and stood, gathering

      his paperwork.

            “You guys can’t go.        You can’t leave me here with that

      fucking gargoyle.     It’s bad enough to work with Nurse

      Motherlode during the day.         But at night?   It scares the

      shit out of me.”

            “Uh, Doc,” Ray said, nodding, as if trying to get him

      to look.

            “What?”    Langston asked, and turned around.      Mothersole

      stood in the doorway, her girth filling the entire jamb.

            “Don’t go anywhere yet, boys,” Mothersole ordered.           She

      lit a Lucky Strike, inhaled the first hit and held the smoke

      in her lungs for at least ten seconds.        “I’ve got a couple

      of questions about our newest guest.”

            “We’ve already told you everything, Nurse Mothersole,”

      Ray said.    “It’s almost midnight and we still got a ton of

      work to do.”

            “Let ’em go,” Langston said.        “What else can they add?

       They’ve had a tough day.”

            “You keep out of this,” she said.        “Two weeks on the

      job earns you no rights with me, Langston.”

            The doctor slammed his water down and stood. “This is

      bullshit, Mothersole.         You need to realize that I’m the

      goddamn doctor and you’re the goddamn nurse.”         He stormed
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       10


      from the break room and down the hall.

                              *       *          *

            Through the big break room window, Kathryn could see

      the nurse and the EMTs talking.     She got down on all fours

      and crawled quickly under the window.      At the corner of the

      hallway, she stood and darted the last twenty feet to the

      offices.    It all seemed too easy.
            The first door was secured by a Cypher-Lock.      Kathryn

      took out the paper with the numbers and punched in the first

      four numbers.     The door clicked open.   Inside, she moved

      through two dark offices.     At the rear of the second one was

      a utility closet with another Cypher-Lock.      She punched in

      the second series of numbers, and the lock clicked open.

            The inside of the closet was a black, cement-

      reinforced, steel file cabinet.     A long steel rod barred the

      drawers closed.     For some reason she always thought that top

      secret files should have been kept in a more glamorous

      place.

            The first combination worked fine, as did the second.

      Everything was going smoothly.      She removed the bar,
      delicately resting it against the wall and opened the top

      drawer.    Flipping through the files, she took those marked

      OPPRO and stuffed them into her daypack.       She replaced the

      bar and secured the cabinet.    It was just too easy, and she

      was getting the feeling something was dangerously wrong.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     11


      But she couldn’t let the uneasiness stop her.

            Outside the utility room, Kathryn sat at the big steel

      desk and flipped on the computer.     Blank disks were in the

      lower left-hand drawer, right where they were supposed to

      be.   When the computer asked for her password, she typed it

      in, and a list of files appeared.     She loaded a blank disk

      into the A drive.
                               *       *       *

            Nurse Mothersole was finished with the lazy-ass EMTs,

      and that punk-ass doctor, so she strode to the nurses

      station, leaving a waft of aromatic smoke in the air masking

      that damn urine smell she had never gotten used to.     She

      knew she had seen the new girl before and wanted to do a

      little checking up on her.

            She settled into the worthless chair.     It was the third

      one she had gone through in a year.     The pieces of crap

      barely lasted three months before they fell apart.     She had

      overheard the guys joking about her weight causing the

      chairs to break, but she knew it’s because the goddamn

      Chinese made them.      She fired up the computer and another
      Lucky Strike.

            Mothersole entered her password LSMFT and waited.       Then

      just as she was about to get into the system, the computer

      responded, “PASSWORD IN USE.     ACCESS DENIED.”

            “Bullshit,” she said to the lousy Japanese computer and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        12


      tried again.    And again, she got the same message.

      “Goddamnit!” she said and pushed herself up from the chair

      and moved like lightening down the hall.

                               *          *        *

            Kathryn slid the last disk into the computer, and

      continued the downloading.        Two minutes more and she would

      be out of there.
            While the system released the classified information

      onto her disk, she memorized the last five digit code.         She

      didn’t want to be stopped at the door, holding the code in

      one hand while trying to open the Cypher-Lock with the

      other.

            When the disk was full and all the information had been

      copied, she put the disk in the pack with the others, and

      logged off the computer.        She stood, ready to go and saw

      Nurse Mothersole waddle by the big window.

            Kathryn slipped to a small alcove, between a file

      cabinet and the wall.         She noticed an umbrella was standing

      in the corner as she heard the metallic click of the door

      unlocking.    Kathryn had the umbrella opened and was crouched
      behind it just as the door opened, spilling light into the

      dark room.    Her heart pounded again, and she knew she was

      caught.   She was going to die.         There was no way they would

      let her live.

            She prayed.    She prayed hard behind the big umbrella.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       13


      She prayed for her son.

            The door opened and Mothersole walked in.      “Come on

      out, Melanie, or whatever the hell your real name is.”

            Kathryn could smell the woman’s tobacco stench from

      across the room.

            “You’re in over your head,” Mothersole said in her

      cancer voice.     “I know I’ve seen you.   It’s only a matter of
      time before I figure out who you are.”      Kathryn hoped that

      the umbrella wasn’t trembling along the rest of her.

            “Even if you escape tonight, these people will track

      you down like a like a dog.”    Mothersole moved slowly

      through the room toward the desk, still trying to catch her

      breath.   “Didn’t anyone ever tell you hiding under the desk

      is so damn predictable?” she said as she stepped behind it,

      as if hoping to surprise her quarry.       When she bent for a

      closer look under the desk, Kathryn repositioned herself.

            “Maybe you’re not so predictable.”      Mothersole looked

      around the dark room, then flicked the desk lamp on.      The

      open umbrella caught her eye, and she took a shiny letter

      opener from the desk and slowly approached the umbrella.
      With two steps to go, the big nurse quickened her pace the

      way place kickers do, and sent the umbrella skyward.

            Kathryn charged from the woman’s side while the nurse

      was off balance, trying to recover from her kick.      She

      slammed into the nurse, pushing her to the floor, then
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      14


      jumped over Mothersole and rushed through the offices to the

      outer door.

              She fumbled with the lock, but had the door open and

      was halfway out when she felt the tip of the letter opener

      go into her back.     She arched out of reflex, and felt the

      burn as the tip scraped down her back through the first

      three layers of skin.         The opener caught on her leather
      belt, causing her to loose her balance, and Kathryn fell to

      the floor.

              Mothersole clambered on top and backhanded Kathryn’s

      face, her ring leaving a small gash on the right cheek.

              With her hands pinned under the weight, Kathryn was

      helpless.    Nurse Mothersole raised the letter opener above

      her head with a bead on Kathryn’s heart.

              The nurse’s arm came down hard just as Dr. Langston

      dove into her, knocking her off Kathryn.        Kathryn stretched

      for her daypack as the doctor and Mothersole wrestled on the

      ground, vying for control of the letter opener.        A security

      guard drawing his weapon brushed by her as she ran out the

      door.    Seconds later a shot sounded inside the building.
      She turned for one last look at the distant lights of the T.

      Edgar Williams clinic.

              Jonas had told her it was going to be dangerous, and

      that there was a good chance she wouldn’t escape.        But Jonas

      had also said, stealing the files would be the most
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                             15


      challenging aspect of the mission, and if Kathryn did

      survive, the rest would be a milk run.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     16




                                    Chapter 2


              Cooper Sumner turned in his oversized bed and felt for

      the velvet skin of Gabrielle.      But as his hand searched the

      cotton sheets, he came out of his sleep and his eyes opened

      to the empty side of the bed and the untouched pillow.        His

      heart came to the realization she was never coming back.        He

      was alone again.

              Coop slipped on his bathing suit, shuffled down the oak

      staircase and across the cold tile floors to the brushed

      aluminum kitchen.     Mr. Coffee, alone on the counter, had a

      full pot of Community Dark Roast ready for him.     He looked

      around at the empty house and gave a cheery “Good morning,”

      mocking the bleak mood that blanketed him.     “Good morning,”

      came his sharp echo.      Except for a leather club chair, a
      small table next to it, and a stereo, the downstairs was

      bare.    A new TV, still in its box, sat on the hardwood floor

      next to the Sony stereo.      Gabrielle had been after him to

      buy more furniture.      As a surprise Coop was planning to

      furnish the entire place as a wedding present to her.     In
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       17


      the meantime, he had bought a TV because Gabrielle liked to

      watch ESPN.

            He scrounged unsuccessfully for something to eat and

      took his mug outside to the crisp spring air.        There was

      more furniture on his expansive deck than in the house.          Two

      teak chaise lounges and a matching table were faced toward

      the sunsets, an umbrella table was nestled in the deck’s
      southeast corner giving Coop an unobstructed view of the

      sunrise as he had his coffee and paper.        Tucked in the

      corners were a pair of Bose 151s to carry the music outside.

      On sunny days he preferred Jimmy Buffett; starry nights

      called for classical.         This morning though, he preferred the

      quiet sounds of the beach.

            Overnight the storm had moved into the gulf, the north

      winds flattening the water for miles.        In the distance, the

      strong winds built the seas giving the horizon the choppy

      and blurred appearance of a jagged-edged, small, flat world.

       The sun had been up for a while and was beginning to light

      the pale green shallow waters of the gulf.        A pod of

      dolphins surfaced, their backs glistening momentarily in the
      morning light, only to submerge again.        Coop pulled a chair

      from the table and faced the sun, stared into his black

      coffee and wondered where today would take him.

            Until a two years ago, Coop’s life had always been

      planned.    He always knew where he was supposed to be and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     18


      what he was supposed to be doing.    But retirement meant

      personal freedom.     And personal freedom was something Coop

      never had.    He had spent the last fifteen years on missions

      in Russia, Afghanistan, Libya and several other hostile

      countries doing odd jobs for the CIA, NSA, ISA, and a few

      other agencies he still can’t mention.    His whole life, it

      seemed, he had a mission, a duty, a reason why he existed.
      This past year his mission had been Gabrielle.

            As a child, Coop’s mother had abandoned him, leaving

      him on the steps of a rural Ohio orphanage.    He grew up

      there along with fifty two other boys, and together they

      faced the rigors and discipline of living in an

      institutional environment.    Before leaving the home at

      eighteen, he was accepted into the Naval Academy where,

      during his plebe year, when his class mates were struggling

      with the regimented life, it was almost a vacation for Coop

      compared to life at the orphanage.

            Coop took a sip of coffee and looked back at his house.

       He didn’t own too many material items.    But what he did own

      he loved.    The Mediterranean style home was more than he
      needed, but when he retired he figured he deserved the

      luxury of a five-thousand square foot gulf front home.      It,

      along with his Hummer and his Harley, were paid for.    Coop

      owed no one.

            His alimony, the money given to agents while living
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        19


      black--working undercover, usually ranged from six to seven

      figures depending on length of assignment and probability of

      return.   The more the alimony, the less chance he would be

      around to collect it.         And historically, when men came back

      enough times to retire, usually around age thirty five, they

      blew their money in few short years trying to make up for

      all the lost time.      Not Coop, however.
            Coop had always looked for the biggest price tag and

      always returned.     Some say he was blessed—that he had an

      angel looking down, protecting him.        He never lost a partner

      and never left anyone behind.        He’d had taken seven rounds

      going back for teammates over the years.        Two landed in his

      left buttock spaced just enough apart that when he lay on

      his right side, from the back, Gabrielle had said it looked

      like a smiley face.      On a botched mission in west Africa he

      ran some FNG who had taken one in the jugular over nine

      miles to the LZ.     Coop had worked too hard for his money and

      he wasn’t about to blow it.

            Suddenly next door the undeniable voice of Richard

      Simmons came on over the speakers, bringing Coop out of his
      thoughts.    Outside the opulent hot pink house, Dick Velour,

      the overweight, fifty year old, self-ordained Cash King and

      Investment Guru was on his deck Sweating to the Oldies in a

      black Speedo.     A bloody mary and a brimming ashtray were

      well within reach of his hairy arms.        Coop waved out of
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       20


      neighborly politeness when their eyes met, but offered no

      further encouragement.        Velour enjoyed talking about his

      money.

            “Morning Coop,” Velour called, raising his glass in a

      toast.

            “Good form,” Coop said, trying to hide a smile.

            “This stuff really helps.       I swear I’m more focused now
      than ever,” he said and took a long sip.       “I made forty-five

      big ones yesterday.”      He set the drink down and reached for

      his cigarette.     “You should let me handle some of your

      inheritance.    I could do the same for you.”

            Coop had no inheritance.       But it was the best way to

      explain his money.      “I think I’ll keep mine just where it

      is.   My CDs are raking in about four percent, Dick.      I can’t

      complain.”

            He also had no CDs.       His money was kept in the Grand

      Cayman branch of Coutts, under Sumner, LTD..       There, monies

      accumulated tax free and stocks were sold with no capital

      gains penalties.     Not quite within the tax code, but the

      Treasury Secretary signed off on this one personally.       Over
      the years, Coop had called his own shots and the portfolios

      been growing at respectable rate.       Every month a small check

      was deposited into a local bank to cover his meager living

      expenses.    For traveling and major purchases, he held a

      Coutts Visa Gold card.        CDs and savings bonds, however, were
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      21


      the two topics guaranteed to piss off Velour and shut him

      up.

             “CDs?”   Velour said, exaggerating a laugh so he could

      be heard over Richard Simmons.     “If you ever find a set of

      balls, let me know.      I’ll make you some real money.”

             He smiled, wishing he had done background checks on his

      neighbors before moving in.     If he had known about Velour,
      he might have chosen another beach.     Maybe another state.

      “Thanks,” he said and waved him off.

             Coop was almost inside when Velour yelled, “How did it

      go with Gabrielle?”

             He turned to respond, wondering how the hell he knew.

      “It didn’t.”

             “A beautiful girl like that?    You didn’t ask her?”

      Velour shook his head as if disgusted.     “A set of balls,

      son.   A set of big brass ones.    That’s what you need.”

              The phone rang rescuing Coop from Velour.    He darted

      to the counter hoping it would be someone it wasn’t.

             “Coop?   It’s Dan,” the man said.   “Go secure.”

             Coop hung up and walked upstairs to his office where
      the secured line was kept.     The phone rang as soon entered

      the room.    “Hey, pal,” Coop said.   “Long time no hear.”

      Coop looked out the front window.     The Donahues across the

      street were still not back from their vacation and the

      papers were collecting in the driveway.     A Ford sedan with
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      22


      smoked windows and distinctive red Missouri plates and

      passed in front.     Dr. Chang, the beautiful young internist,

      bent over for her paper.      “How’s things in D.C.?”   Coop

      asked.

              “I’m working too damn much.   I wish I could sit around

      and let my mind wander like you.”

              “What’re you talking about,” Coop protested.      “I work.”
              “Bullshit,” Dan said.   “I’ve seen will-work-for-food

      guys exert more energy than you.”

              “Look,” Coop said, “Until you’ve walked a mile in my

      flip-flops--”

              “Yeah, yeah, yeah.    Look, I called for two reasons.

      First, how did it go with Gabrielle?      She say yes?”

              “Never got around to asking her.”   And he left it

      there.

              “No details?”   Dan asked, as if he were disappointed.

              “Let’s just say we had a compatibility problem.”

              “Sorry to hear that,” he said.   “But don’t give up,

      Coop.    One day you’ll meet the right woman,” Dan said.

      “You’ll fall in love, get married and have kids.        She’ll
      screw around on you.      Then you’ll have a nasty divorce and

      spend the rest of your life paying alimony and cursing the

      day you met her.     So, hang in there, man.”

              Special Agent Dan Banister had been in the field for

      ten years and had taken a hit in the chest.      The wound and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       23


      the subsequent surgery caused a horrible, phlegm producing

      cough and cost Banister half a lung.       He had the option to

      retire or to stay on with a desk job.       He chose to work.

      Banister’s main job was to line up small, easy assignments

      for former agents of the different organizations.        Since

      Coop had worked for all the agencies for one project or

      another, Dan still kept in touch, giving Coop the chance to
      make money.     Coop usually turned them down.

            “How’s your Chinese?”

            “Phenomenal,” he said staring at Dr. Chang sitting on

      her deck drinking coffee.       She was wearing a bikini top and

      denim shorts.     A Mediacom truck was a few houses down, but

      no workers could be seen.

            “Glad to hear it.       I’ve got a job for you.”

            “Not interested,” Coop said.

            “It’s a milk run, Coop.      You’ll be in Beijing a week.

      A month, tops.”

            “Nope.”

            “Pays a hundred thou.”

            “I’m busy that week.”      Outside, Dr. Chang was gone.
      The Donahues pulled in the driveway, tires bouncing over the

      papers.   And the Missouri Sedan stopped briefly next to the

      Mediacom truck.     Dr. Chang walked back outside, sipping what

      looked like a now full cup of coffee.       “Thanks for thinking

      of me, but I’m retired.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        24


              “How retired can you be if you still have a phone

      scrambler?”

              “Old habits die hard,” Coop said.     He had no idea why

      he kept the scrambler.        Other than the money, the scrambler

      was the only material connection between his present life

      and his past.

              “If you change your mind, let me know?     By the way,
      how’s the book coming?”

              “I haven’t started it yet, but I think today’s the

      day.”

              “Maybe it’s time to take that goddamn monster of a bike

      you have and hit the road for a month.       Go write that book

      you’ve been yapping about.       Quit talking about it and start

      doing it.    Didn’t Hemingway say something about that?”

              Coop sensed something was wrong.     Dan was not a big fan

      of small talk, but today he was asking too many questions.

      “What’s up, Dan?     Why all the questions?    What’s going on?”

              “Nothing, Coop.   Just checking on you.    It’s part of my

      job, you know.”

              “Thanks for checking, but I’m fine.”
              “Call me if you need me,” Dan said.

              An hour later he was swimming in the gulf.     The

      beginning of spring was his favorite time of the year on the

      coast.    No tourists and hardly anyone from town.     Only a

      handful of spring breakers, dry north winds and clear blue
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                            25


      skies.    As he swam, his arms moved from the cold water to

      the warm sun and back again.        His goggles kept an eye out

      for the sand shark or stray hammerhead on the bottom.           He

      swam south towards the Yucatan Peninsula five hundred miles

      away trying to get in as much distance as possible.

              Distance heals.

              Coop switched to the breaststroke and estimated the
      distance to be about one mile.          He made his slow turn toward

      home.    In the distance he could see his house amidst the

      white glare from the beach.

                                    *     *      *

              As dusk approached, Coop was shoveling sand and

      wrestling palm trees into their new homes when Dr. Chang’s

      boyfriend, a pretentious anesthesiologist pulled up in his

      Jag and laid on the horn.         Coop watched as she walked down

      the wide wooden steps of her house.            She was wearing a red

      gown so thin and breezy, a strong wind could have blown it

      off her.    He stopped working, leaned on his shovel and while

      taking off his work gloves, said in perfect Mandarin

      Chinese,    “You look lovely tonight, Doctor.         I hope your
      date appreciates beauty as much as he appreciates

      intelligence.”     It was the first time he had spoken to her

      and as soon as he said it, he wished he hadn’t.           Cooper

      Sumner, retired CIA turned Creepy Stalker.

              She stopped on the last step and look at him as if
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      26


      surprised at his mastery of her native language.      “Thank

      you,” she replied in her tongue.     “And you look dirty.   I

      hope your date appreciates fertile soil as much as she

      appreciates men with such good taste.”

            Coop smiled and went back to work, wondering what the

      hell the guy in the Jag thought was more important than

      helping Dr. Chang into the car.
            After a quick shower, Coop put on a pair of shorts and

      a light sweatshirt and pedaled his Cannondale mountain bike

      through the cool evening air to Spot’s.      The orange clouds

      were glowing in the aftermath of the sunset as Coop locked

      his bike amongst the rusted cruisers and ten speeds in the

      wooden rack outside Spot’s Exotic Animals and Gulf Side

      Watering Hole.     He walked across the sandy sidewalk, past

      beach strolling couples holding hands, toward the reggae

      music coming from the bar.     It hadn’t even been twenty four

      hours since he and Gabrielle walked the beach.      If he had

      realized it was going to be their last time, he may have

      enjoyed it a little more.

            Lazy Day was playing to a full crowd, and Spot’s
      fiancée, Anna, was behind the bar.     She saw Coop come in and

      asked one of the other girls to cover for her.

            “Hey, handsome.     Buy you a beer?”   She handed him a Dos

      Equis.

            Coop straddled a bar stool, grabbed a napkin and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        27


      wrapped it around the beer.      The place was half filled with

      the college crowd spending another wasted night of spring

      break.

            The ceiling fans spun slowly, mingling the humid gulf

      coast air with the semi-sweet redolent combination of suntan

      lotion, sweat, perfume, and stale beer.

            “Thanks, Anna.”     He took a sip.   The first beer of the
      day always had a special taste to it.      “Spot around?”

            “He’ll be here later.      He is flying.   He must have so

      many hours.”    She scooped him a bowl of peanuts.     “Why

      didn’t you become a pilot?”

            “I guess it wasn’t chosen for me.”      He looked around

      the bar for any familiar faces.      “I know a little about it,”

      he said.    “It’s the landings I always have trouble with.”

            “What did you do in the Navy?      Spot never told me.”

            “I worked at the Pentagon.”      It’s what he told

      everyone.

            “Did you meet Wolfe Blitzer?”      She asked with the

      genuine eagerness of a child asking someone who had been to

      Disney World if they had met Mickey Mouse.       In many ways she
      was still like a child.       With her inquisitive nature, her

      enthusiasm for the routine, and her ability, through a

      vulnerable trust, to make anyone feel as comfortable as if

      they had known her forever.

            A twenty seven year old student from Hungary, having
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        28


      been in the U.S. for only six months, Anna seemed

      continuously amazed at everything she saw.        Things that

      Americans take for granted: grocery stores, fast food, The

      Gap.   Spot said she had once spent two hours at the

      Everything’s a Dollar store trying on big sunglasses,

      looking at the toys, and reading the books.        Being with her

      was like reliving first experiences as a child, and at the
      same time, as an adult.

             She was not attractive by traditional standards, but

      Anna possessed a continually emerging beauty.          The more she

      said, the more she was around, the more beautiful she

      became.   It was an appealing quality and it was easy to

      understand why Spot had fallen for her and proposed after

      only a few months.

             “Well?” she prodded.

             “No,” Coop said.       “I haven’t met Wolfe Blitzer.”

             “Too bad.   He is one very sexy American.”

             “If I see him I’ll tell him you said so.”

             “No.   Please don’t.      Spot might be mad.”

             “I didn’t think he ever got mad.”
             “He doesn’t.   I just don’t want to test him.”        She

      reached below the bar for a handful of saltines and wedged

      them into the basket.         “So Coop, how did it go with

      Gabrielle?    Are we going to have a double wedding?”

             Coop lowered his head, looking into the bottle of Dos
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                          29


      Equis, not wanting to answer.

            “Coop?”   Anna tried.

            When Coop looked up again ready to talk, Anna’s

      attention had moved on.       Her eyes were alight and a big-

      tooth smile graced her face.      “Spot!”

            Coop felt a friendly hand on his back.

            “How are my two favorite people in the world?”          Spot
      asked as he slipped behind the bar for a few of Anna’s

      kisses.   Gabrielle never kissed Coop that way.       It was

      always quick pecks.      He didn’t mind, though.    He was simply

      thankful to have her--to finally have someone.

            “How’d it go, fly-boy?”      Coop asked.

            “Same old shit,” Spot said, pouring himself a beer.

      “Take her up.     Log it down.   Maintain proficiency.”       Spot

      had been Coop’s roommate for four years at the academy and a

      right tackle for the Midshipmen.      The solid, two-hundred-

      ninety pounder had the opportunity to go pro, but instead,

      kept his commitment to the Navy.      It turned out he liked

      flying a hell of a lot more than football.         His dream was to

      fly fighters, but was too big to fit into the cockpit so he
      had to settle for CH-54s.      He turned to the bar, set his

      beer down and reached another cold one for Coop.

            “How’s the house coming?”      Coop asked.

            “Fucking hurricanes,” he said.        “Hurricanes and

      contractors.    You never know when they’re going to show up.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      30


      He raised his glass and emptied the entire beer into his

      mouth.    “There’s no telling when the house is going to be

      done.    Probably another month or so.    The place is so damn

      dusty, I can’t stand it.”      He turned to the beer tap and

      filled his glass.

              “I must get back to work,” Anna said, as if wanting to

      dodge a sensitive topic.       She tied the apron around her thin
      waist.    “Sleeping with boss only gets you so far,” she said

      and gathered a few glasses, then headed to the kitchen.

              “Any luck with moving in with Anna?”    Coop asked after

      she moved out of range.

              “No.   She’s pretty damn adamant against cohabitation.

      She says her mother would roll over in her grave.      She says

      it makes things too comfortable.      So you always wonder if

      you are in love with the person or in love with the

      comfort.”

              “She’s got a point.”    Coop tipped his beer to his lips.

              “It’s just the whole marriage thing again, Coop.    Know

      what I mean?     I was hoping if I move in with her, she won’t

      want to get married so fast.”
              Spot had spent most of his Navy years in Pensacola.

      First going through flight training, then later returning as

      an instructor.     And in his fifteen years of active duty, the

      only time he saw Coop was one night while he was on alert

      off the coast of North Africa.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     31


            Spot’s number had come up to drop two Russians Mafia

      types into the water twelve miles north of the Libyan coast.

       The two had been intercepted flying a cargo plane full of

      weapons and forced to land at a covert airstrip north of

      Athens.    Eventually, after days of continuous interrogation,

      as the CIA called it, the two broke, giving up the

      information the CIA needed to temporarily neutralize a
      particularly violent Libyan terrorist group.

            In return for their information, the Russians were

      promised passage close to their original destination.     It

      was the CIA’s call: They were to be dropped in the water

      twelve miles from shore in a shipping lane.     Their cover

      story would be that their plane had gone down and they spent

      three days in the water.      Their bruises were sustained in

      the crash.

            It was midnight when Spot landed at the airstrip only

      long enough for the spooks to load the Russians into the

      helicopter.    As he flew over the Mediterranean, he looked

      back several times to check on his passengers.     He had a

      clear view of the short one who kept yelling something in
      Russian.    The tall one was harder to see in the low light.

      He only saw the hands, resting on the knees, protruding from

      the shadows.

            Hovering forty feet over the drop zone, with all lights

      extinguished except for the green jump light over the open
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     32


      hatch, the prisoners were ushered to the door.    The short

      one was still screaming, fighting the marine guards, knowing

      he would die.     After a quick struggle, they tossed him out

      of the hatch.

            The other Russian stood squarely in the doorway like a

      diver on the high platform concentrating, focusing.    Spot

      watched as this high ranking member of the Russian Mafia,
      turned to face him, gave him the thumbs-up, then leaped into

      the sea.    It was a face Spot had seen almost every day for

      four years, then not again until that dark night twelve

      miles from Libya.

            Spot fought every urge to lower the loop and pick up

      his best friend.     But he knew that whatever Coop was doing,

      it must’ve been right.

            A few years later Spot returned to Pensacola and with

      less than a year left to serve, it came time to renew his

      contract with the Navy, Spot couldn’t decide what to do.

      His wife had run off with the plumber, and the divorce

      cleaned him out.     But since he had been married to her for

      so long, she was entitled to half of his retirement.    And,
      right or wrong, he wasn’t going to let that happen.    But the

      airlines weren’t hiring, and the Navy was cutting back on

      flight time.    There was no viable option.

            The solution came to him on a ten beer night at the

      Flora-Bama when he purchased a Fantasy Five lotto ticket.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     33


      He bought it from the window just inside the back stage at

      9:28, and by 9:59, Lt. Preston “Spot” Matthews, was worth

      over $650,000.

              The following Monday he drove to Tallahassee and

      collected his money.      On Tuesday, he made an offer on a run-

      down beach bar.     On Wednesday, he took an early out from the

      Navy.    Seven months later, after spending all of his free
      time working on the bar, Spot’s Exotic Animals and Gulf Side

      Watering Hole opened for business.     The place was a hit with

      the military, civilians, and tourists alike.     It had even

      survived back to back hurricanes.     Everything was going well

      for Spot.    Everything except the pressure Anna was putting

      on him to get married.

              “But enough about me,” Spot said.   “What’d Gabrielle

      say?”

              Coop lingered for a moment, his hand fighting to stay

      wrapped around the comfort of the cold beer.     But he

      succumbed and reached into his pocket and placed a small

      velvet case on the bar.

              Spot looked at the case, then to Coop.   “What the hell?
      She said no?”     He asked as if he didn’t believe it.    “I

      don’t believe it,” he said.

              “Believe it,” Coop said.

              “How could she?   You’re rich, you’re handsome--even if

      you are missing a part of your ear.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       34


            Coop subconsciously felt for the missing lobe of his

      right ear that had been bitten off by an angry Afghan.

            “Hell, you’re my best friend!”      Spot continued.    “What

      kind of woman could say no?”      Spot slammed his open palm on

      the bar.    “Hey,” he said with a smile and a wink, “Maybe she

      likes girls,” then laughed as if it was some kind of

      terribly funny joke.
            Coop didn’t laugh.      He just nodded.   He was still

      having trouble with the idea and didn’t really want to talk

      about it.

            “Bullshit,” Spot said in amazement.

            “No shit,” Coop replied.       “I found her with the

      waitress from The Oasis.”

            “A lesbo, huh?”

            “Don’t call her that,” Coop said.      “It’s something

      she’s been struggling with,” Coop said.

            Spot stepped away from the bar and crossed his arms.

      “I’d be pissed.”

            “About what?”     Coop said.

            “That she didn’t tell you sooner,” Spot said.      “Maybe
      she would have let you watch or something.”

            “You think this is fucking funny, Spot?      Jesus, man, I

      loved her.”

            “She did wear a lot of flannel shirts.”

            “Thinking back, I can almost put the pieces together,”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                            35


      Coop said.    “I should have seen it coming.”

              Spot poured himself a draft, dumping off the last inch

      of foam.    “Did you even get a chance to show her the ring?”

              “No,” Coop said.      “She never saw it.

              “That sucks, man.     I’m sorry.”

              “Never again, Spot,” he said and pounded the bar for

      emphasis.    “Never again.      I’m swearing off women.”
               “Giving them up for good?”     Spot asked, as he got his

      friend another beer.       “That’s kinda hard, Coop.       Sounds so

      final.”    He nodded toward a group of LSU girls playing

      quarters.    “How could give up something like that?”

              Coop wrapped a napkin around the beer to keep it cold.

      “Easy,” he said.     “I never learned much about relationships.

      I know about women, but I don’t know shit about

      relationships.”     He sipped the beer, letting out a small

      belch.    “You’ve been married before, you know all about that

      shit.”

              “Lot of good it did me.     Ask my fucking plumber how

      good I am at relationships.        He’ll tell you how great I

      was.”
              Coop sat on the stool watching the girls roll quarters

      off their noses, bouncing it into the glass.          He

      inadvertently made eye contact with the blonde and

      immediately looked away.        “It’s not that I have anything

      against lesbians,” Coop picked up again.           “It’s just that I
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      36


      don’t think they make the best wives.”

             “Who knew?”   Spot said, shrugging, sipping his beer.

      “It could have happened to anybody.”

             “She never did like to kiss me,” he said.    “I always

      knew that.”

             “And could she beat the shit out of you in racquet

      ball,” Spot said.     He pulled Coop another beer from the
      cooler.   “What now?”     Spot asked.

             “Relax, hang out here and drink your beer.”    He took a

      long draw of the cold beer and set the bottle on the napkin.

       “How are your wedding plans coming?”

             “I’m so fucking confused,” Spot said.    “On one hand I

      want to spend the rest of my life with her.      On the other

      hand, I don’t want to get screwed again.”

             “You think she’d do that?”

             “I don’t know,” Spot said with a slight shrug.    “You

      never know.”

             “Did you ever get her an engagement ring?”    Coop knew

      he hadn’t, but he wanted to be sure.

             “Not yet,” Spot said, turning to pour a beer for a
      customer.    “You know with my house being worked on from the

      hurricanes, it’s costing more than insurance is willing to

      pay.   I told Anna I’d get her one as soon as I could.”

             Coop pushed the box to Spot.     “Then consider this my

      wedding gift,” he said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      37


              Spot stared at the box so long, the beer he was pouring

      spilled over.     He flipped the tap off.    “There’s no way,

      Coop.    I can’t.”

              “Take it,” Coop insisted.

              “I can’t,” Spot said.   “It’s too much.”

              “Hell, it’s just going to sit in a drawer,” Coop said.

       “Take it.    Unless you don’t think Anna will like it.”
              “Are you shitting me?   A full three carats?   She’ll

      love it.”

              “Then it’s our secret,” Coop said.    “She doesn’t have a

      need to know.”

              “I don’t know what to say.”

              “Say I get free beer,” Coop said.

              “You get free beer,” Spot replied and slipped the box

      in his pocket.

              Coop’s eyes fell back into his bottle, staring at the

      small bubbles.     Giving Spot the ring was the final act of

      acceptance.    Gabrielle was never coming back.

              Distance heals.

              Spot reached over the bar and put a wide hand on his
      buddy’s shoulder.     “Cheer up, Coop.   There’ll be others.”

              Coop looked up.   “Not for me,” he said.   “Never again.”

              “We’ll see,” Spot said.   “A few more beers and you’ll

      be over at the LSU table bouncing quarters into a glass,

      deciding which ones you’ll take back to that fucking mansion
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       38


      of yours.”

            Coop laughed.     “I don’t think so,” he said.    “I’ve got

      an early day tomorrow.”

            “What’s going on?”

            “Distance,” Coop said, pushing his empty bottle away,

      ready for another.      “I’ve decided to take a little road

      trip.”
            “When?”

            “Manana.”

            “Like that?”    Spot asked.

            “Like that,” Coop said.     “But I need your help.      I need

      you to stay in my house and take care of things.”

            Spot nodded as if he understood.     “Your cat.”

            “It’s not my cat,” Coop said.

            “You feed it, don’t you?”

            “Yeah, but--”

            “I sleeps at your house, doesn’t it?”
            “Sure, but--”

            “Then it’s your cat,” Spot said.

            “It’s not my cat!”

            “Regardless,” Spot said.      “This is going to take some

      thought.”    He stroked his chin as he considered his choices.

       “I can sleep amidst the thick dust of reconstruction in a

      small, though very cozy home, or vacation at a palatial,

      however, sparsely furnished, gulf front estate.        Hmm.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      39


      That’s a tough one.”

            “I have the cable hooked up,” Coop said.

            “HBO?”   Spot asked.

            “And Showtime.”

            “I don’t know,” Spot said.    “I usually like to stay in

      homes with furniture, but if you throw in the keys to the

      Hummer, you’ve got a deal.”
            Coop held up his glass for a toast.    “You can move in

      tomorrow.    I should be gone by noon.   Come over early and

      I’ll give you the keys and the security code.”

            “I’ll be there.”

            The blonde LSU student, the one with the small nose and

      huge brown eyes, approached Coop.    He could smell her

      perfume before she was near enough to speak.

            “Excuse me,” she said in a southern accent, drawing it

      out for almost eight syllables.    “Do you have an extra

      quarter.    I missed the glass and it rolled off the table.

      We can’t find it, and it was our last one.”

            Coop looked over her head to the table and all the eyes

      turned away.    The conspiratorial smiles, however, remained
      in tact.    Before he could answer, Spot dug one out of his

      pocket and gave it to her.

            “Thanks,” she said and flashed him a fake smile.     Her

      brown eyes fell back on Coop.   “You know how to play

      quarters?” she said taking thirteen syllables to say it.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         40


      “Whyn’t you join us?”

              “I don’t think so,” Coop said, and turned back to Spot,

      effectively dismissing her.        A woman was the last thing he

      needed.

              She walked away exaggerating her swing just a bit as if

      she thought Coop would watch, and she was right.

              “Can I have a quarter please, mister,” a tiny voice
      said.    “My daddy won’t give me anymore.”      The softness of

      her voice contrasted with her harsh Hungarian accent.

      Cooper turned, and Anna was standing next to him, playfully

      batting her eyelashes.        “These girls will go to great miles

      to get you, Coop.     You be careful.”

              “That’s great lengths, honey,” Spot said.

              “Thank you, sweetie,” she said and leaned over the bar

      to give him a kiss.      She turned to Coop.    “He is the best at

      helping me with my Americanisms,” she said.        “He hates to do

      it, but I make him.      Once, at dinner, I ordered Flaming Yon
      and Grandma Yea!, and the waiter looked at me like I

      was...,” she twirled her finger around her temple, “...you

      know, kooky.”

              “Filet Mignon and Grand Marnier?”      Coop asked.

              “Exactly,” Anna said.      “That’s what I ordered.    But the

      waiter, he did not understand.        But my sweetie, he helped

      me.”    She took the stool next to Coop and said, “So, how did

      it go with Gabrielle?         I’ve been killing to know.”    Spot
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      41


      tried to interrupt, but Anna continued.     “When’s the big

      day?   Are we going to have a double wedding?      We can have it

      here, if she wants.”

             “No wedding,” Spot said.

             “I never asked her.”

             “You did get cold hands, yes?” she asked.     Spot let the

      mixed Americanism go.
             “Yes, but cold hands means warm heart,” Coop said, not

      really sure why.

             “Let me feel for myself,” Anna said and reached for

      Coop’s hands.     “Ooh, they are like ice cubes.   Your heart

      must be on fire.”

             “It’s from holding the beer,” Coop said.

             “No,” she said.    “You have a napkin around the beer.

      This is your heart on fire.”      She said it with the

      conviction of a fortune teller.     Coop halfway expected her

      to bring out the tarot cards.

             “My heart’s not on fire,” he protested.     “Especially

      not tonight.    So can we change the subject?”

             “Yeah, let’s change the subject,” Spot said, getting
      another round of beer.

             They sat in silence for a minute before Anna asked,

      “How’s your kitty-cat?”

             “I don’t have a kitty-cat,” Coop said a bit too
      forcefully.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         42


              “Okay,” Anna said.    “How’s your cat?”

              “It’s not my cat.”    Coop was protesting again.    “I hate

      cats.    All they do is get hair everywhere and throw up all

      the time."

              "Have you named him yet?"       Anna asked.

              "It’s a her," Coop defended.      "And why would I name a

      cat I don’t have?"

                                    *     *      *

              Coop closed the sliding glass door of his deck behind

      him. The gulf was flat.       Small waves nudged in, kissing the

      white sand.    Dick Velour had gone out again and left his

      flood lights on, lighting up the beach like a football

      field.    Coop set his drink on the table and shook the bag of

      Friskies again.     “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.”

              Bright lights on the beach cause problems for marine

      life.    Sea turtles come onto the beach at night to lay their

      eggs.    When the eggs hatch, the baby turtles instinctively

      begin walking toward the light of the moon, to the water,

      and to their waiting mothers.       But when bright lights are

      left on ashore, the turtles get confused and never find

      their family, the moon or even the water, leaving the

      beaches full of orphaned baby sea turtles.

              Coop went to the edge of the deck and shaded his eyes

      from Velour’s light.      "Here kitty, kitty, kitty," Coop

      called, shaking a bag of cat food.         "Here kitty, kitty,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         43


      kitty," he called again scanning the base of the sea oats

      looking for movement.         Hell, he couldn’t even hold on to a

      stupid cat.    She’d probably found a girlfriend too.      Coop

      shook the bag one last time and stretched out in the chaise-

      lounge, the bright lights blinding him.        He stood it for one

      more minute, then yelled over to Velour’s.

            When Velour didn’t respond, Coop had only one
      alternative.    He went inside for a moment, then returned to

      the deck twisting the silencer into the barrel of the

      Browning nine millimeter.        And in four quick shots the beach

      was dark, and once again, safe for the turtles.        This was

      the fifth time he’d shot out the lights, and Velour still

      didn’t have a clue why he kept having to replace them.

            In the dark, the bioluminescence sparkled as the gulf’s

      surge pushed the water ashore.        Cooper sipped his third

      Bombay Sapphire, eyed the Pleadies through the telescope,

      and though tried not to, thought about Gabrielle.        He wanted

      to reach over to the other chaise-lounge and feel her there.

      If he closed his eyes and imagined, he could feel her tan,

      smooth skin.    He could trace the small scar on her left knee
      with his finger.     If he breathed deep enough he could smell

      her scent on the beach-towel that had been hanging over the

      rail since her last swim.        She was now completely off

      limits.   It was different than if another man had taken her.

      For that, he was prepared.        But against a woman, there was
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       44


      no competing.     At least they had one more thing in common.
      He felt a smile break across his face.

            Coop rose from his chair, walked to the railing and

      looked out into the darkness.      Even at night the sand was

      paper white and tonight it glowed in the half moon.      Up and

      down the beach, it was still.      No movement in any direction,

      except the water pulsing ashore, as if in rhythm with the

      heartbeat of the earth.       But as Coop looked closer, the

      beach was alive with its own nighttime inhabitants.      Sand

      crabs scurried about from one hole to the next, night birds

      dipped in the shallow waters, a lone dolphin surfaced just

      within the realm of visibility, purging his used air.

            He walked down the stairs and looked under the deck for

      the cat, then around to the side of the house.      As he made

      his way to the front, checking the base of the oleander

      hedge, a car pulled up.       He stood in the shadows and could

      hear the raised voices from inside the Jaguar.      Suddenly the

      door opened and Dr. Chang jumped out, hastily shutting the

      door behind her.     It wasn’t until the Jag took off did she

      realize she had shut the door on her strapless dress.

            The car accelerated, tearing the light dress from

      Chang’s tiny body, leaving the doctor in the middle of the

      street completely exposed; no bra, no panties, standing

      directly under the streetlight.

            Coop waited a moment, not wanting to embarrass her.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       45


      Besides, the light from above did her justice.       He watched

      from the oleanders as she walked up the stairs to her door,

      then quickly realized she had left her purse in the car.

      Chang flailed her arms in frustration, letting out a few

      words Coop couldn’t quite make out.

              It was time to leave the shadows and help.    As he

      crossed the street, he removed his sweatshirt, keeping his
      head and eyes down.      “Here,” he called as he reached her

      driveway.    Her driveway was paved with a mix of cement and

      sea shells, and was wide enough to park three cars side by

      side.    Coop heard the footsteps coming down the stairs, and

      felt the shirt ripped from his grasp.

              “Thanks,” she said quietly.

              Still with his head down, “I’m Coop.   From across--”

              “I know.”

              “C’mon,” he said and turned.    “I’ll get you some

      clothes.”

              “You can look now,” she said.

              The shirt swallowed the doctor.   The arms were

      completely scrunched up, and the waist ribbing rested around
      her mid thigh--a very smooth, delicate mid thigh.      They

      locked in an awkward stare as if they had no clue as to what

      to do or say next.      He thought briefly about inviting her

      over for a drink, but remembered his oath to swear off

      women.    He could’ve ended the whole night right then by
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       46


      volunteering to get his burglary tools.      He could have her

      in her house in ten seconds.      But he couldn’t quite remember

      where he put them.

            “I could use a drink,” she said.      “Do you like the

      stars?”

            “Excuse me?”

            “Stars.   You know the things in the sky you see at
      night.”

            “You’ve seen my telescope,” he said, knowing she’d

      probably seen it on one of her walks along the beach.

            “No.   But I’d like to,” she said.     “I’ll bet the

      Pleiades are beautiful.       Can we see them?”

            “Well,” Coop said hesitantly, searching for the right

      excuse.   It was already midnight and he was tired.        Tomorrow

      was going to be a long day and the last thing he wanted to

      do was sit on the deck with a nearly naked woman and stare

      at the stars.

            On the other hand, she was locked out of her house and

      had no where else to go.      And it is a dangerous world.      What

      could a couple of drinks hurt?      Coop looked to the southwest

      and pointed.    “I think they’re over there,” he said.

            She took his arm and held on tight.         It was a closeness

      Coop had felt before with Gabrielle.      A comfortable

      closeness.

            And maybe after a couple of drinks, he just might
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                               47


      remember that he had left his burglary tools in the top left

      drawer of his desk.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      48




                                    Chapter 3


            The waves rolled in, and the surfers were out in droves

      taking back the wild surf the north winds had stolen.

      Overnight the winds had changed directions, and were now

      sending the swells and the humidity up from Mexico.       The air

      was thicker and not as clear.      It was the kind of day that

      makes the locals hose the sea spray from their cars and gulf

      side windows.     The green-gray water surged Coop forward as

      he swam the last two hundred yards of his routine.

            Fatigued, though feeling invigorated with the thought

      of his trip, Coop pulled the last stroke, caught a good

      sized wave and rode it in until his chest hit the sand.          He

      was surprised to see Dr. Chang walking down to the water’s

      edge to greet him.
            They had found a dozen constellations last night

      shortly after building the drinks.        The rest of the evening

      was spent talking.      She told him how as a young girl she had

      immigrated to San Francisco.      He let her do most of the

      talking, not really letting much known about himself.       He
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        49


      preferred that way.      She had moved to Pensacola after

      spending a weekend on the beach during a Medical seminar.

      Eventually she planned to return to China for a visit.

              Susan stood as he approached.     “I wanted to see you

      before you left.”

              He toweled off his head, his short hair snapping to

      attention.    “I was going to stop by,” he conceded.      Even
      with the strong south wind behind him, he could smell her

      just-showered scent.

              She slowly backed up, motioning him to follow.      “I have

      a favor to ask.”

              “Ask away,” he said.

              “My grandmother, the one in San Francisco, collects

      post cards,” she said.        “I was just wondering if you could

      send some to me from time to time, and I’ll forward them to

      her.”

              Coop was hesitant.     The entire mission of the trip was

      to forget about responsibility and obligations for a while,

      and agreeing to send regular postcards contradicted the

      trip’s mission.
              “I don’t mean every day,” she added, apparently in tune

      with his thoughts.      “Just when you get to somewhere

      interesting.”

              He could take the time to send a few cards.     It wasn’t

      that big of a deal.      “Don’t expect any long, descriptive
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      50


      narratives,” he warned.

              “You don’t have to write anything but the address,” she

      said.

              He followed her up to his house and plopped into one of

      the chaise lounges, and she fell into the other as if it

      were her own.     Jimmy Buffett was coming through the

      speakers.
              “When are you leaving?”   Susan asked.

              “Around noon.   I want to get about four hours in

      today.”

              “I think it’s so exciting to just take off and do

      whatever you want.      Just you, your bike and the open road.”

       She took off her sunglasses, wiped off the mist and

      returned them to her small face.     “You never did say what

      your book’s going to be about,” she said and crossed, then

      recrossed her legs.      “Actually, you never said much at all

      last night.”

              “I was listening to you,” he said.

              “If you won’t tell me, at least promise to sign my

      copy?”
              “If you’re still around when I’m finished.”

              The sound of glass shattering came from inside the

      house sending Coop to investigate.     He padded over the

      wooden deck, caught a splinter in his toe, and hobbled

      inside.    He could hear Susan laughing.     In the kitchen, the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      51


      cat was slurping up the remaining milk from Coop’s cereal

      bowl in the sink.

            “There you are,” he said and gave the piebald cat a

      little scratch between the ears.     “Where the hell’ve you

      been?”   Coop poured a bowl full of Friskies, set it on the

      floor and returned to Dr. Chang.

            Susan lay on the chair with her eyes closed, sunglasses
      resting on her head.      “What was it?” she said without

      opening her eyes.

            “Damn cat.”

            “I didn’t know you had a damn cat.”

            “I don’t have a damn cat.     I fed this one once and it

      keeps coming back.”

            “If you stop feeding it, the damn cat won’t come back.”

            “I keep telling him that,” Spot said as he walked onto

      the deck, startling Susan.     Spot stuck his hand out and Coop

      made the introductions, mentioning each other’s occupations.

       People like it better that way.     Not so much as a scorecard

      anymore, but a chance to predict what to expect from their

      new acquaintances.      It’s a way of establishing instant
      comfort between two people.     Coop had spent his entire life

      learning how to fit in with all segments and make anyone

      instantly, yet at the same time, genuinely like him.

      Lately, though, he didn’t care what most people thought.

            Susan reached to shake hands while dipping her glasses
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        52


      with the other, giving Spot a full and blatant appraisal.

      “Why do they call you Spot?” Susan asked.

              Spot laughed and said, “It’s a long story.”

              Susan stood and gave Spot another look, an obvious look

      of approval.     Coop didn’t know whether to feel jealous or

      relieved.

              “I’ll bet you two have a lot to go over,” she said.
      “I’d better be going.”        She caught Coop off guard by giving

      him a hug.      “Thanks for being there last night.”   Then she

      surprised him again when she stretched in bare feet to reach

      his cheek, giving him a friendly kiss.       “Don’t forget the

      post cards.”     He gave her a slight wave as she left, not

      really knowing what to say.

              When she was out of sight, Spot said, “Don’t tell me

      you--”

              “No.”

              “What’s this ‘Thanks for last night’ crap then?”

              “She was locked out last night.     I let her in.”

              “Bullshit,” Spot said.     “Women don’t just say that, you

      know.    And when they say it in front of another guy, they’re
      up to something.”     Spot fidgeted in the chaise until he got

      comfortable.     “I know these things.”

              “I’ll bet you do,” Coop said.

              “Seriously,” Spot continued.     “She said it thinking I

      would assume you did her last night.       Only she didn’t count
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       53


      on your integrity.      Most guys would have lied and said they

      nailed her.      She wanted me to think you got laid last

      night.”

              “Why the hell for?”

              “I’ll tell you why.    She’s got something bigger in

      store for you, stud.      For one fleeting moment she wanted you

      to feel like you had her.”         Spot took off his sunglasses and

      cleaned them on his shirt.         “She’s got a missile lock on

      you, Coop.       I’d watch out.”   He returned the glasses to his

      face and looked around the beach, taking in the beauty, the

      solitude.    “Look, I don’t mean to rush you, but what time

      are you leaving?”

              “Can’t wait to get rid of me?”

              Spot shrugged of the response and looked around the

      deck.    “Got any outlets out here?”

              “Outlets?”

              “Yeah.    For the band.    They’ve got to--”

              “What band?”

              “C’mon, dude, you can’t have a decent kegger without a

      band.”

              Spot followed Coop inside and stopped at the stereo,

      pushed the AM button and searched until he found General

      Wright’s show.

              “You’re not really going to listen to that nut are

      you?” Coop asked.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        54


              “Why not?   The guy’s ex-Marine.”

              “So was the guy the climbed the tower in Texas.”

              “You always say that,” Spot said.      “Today he’s going to

      talk about Berkshire’s murder cover up.”

              “Again?” Coop said.      “A guy offs himself in a public

      park, and automatically it’s a murder.”

              “Well if it was suicide, where’s the bullet?      Where are
      the footprints leading down the dusty road?        The only road

      in, I might add.”     Spot went to the fridge and grabbed a

      beer.    “And why weren’t his shoes dusty?”      He twisted off

      the cap and took a sip.        “Oh no.   This guy was hit.”

              “And according to him, it’s part of a vast government

      conspiracy,” Coop said.

              “You bet.   Shh.   Here it is.”

              “...and the jack-booted thugs of the BATF, the FBI, and

      the IRS took careful aim at that young up-and-comer and

      squeezed the trigger.         Friends do you know what it’s like to

      squeeze the trigger on a man.        Some of you do.   I sure as

      heck do.    After serving in uniform during two wars, I seen

      the enemy eyeball to eyeball.        And I think you’ll agree with
      me that it makes every muscle tighten.        And the last orifice

      to go over the fence seems like it will never relax.

              “That young politician...now I know we didn’t need

      another, but that’s not the point.        The point is that his

      life was vaporized in a split second, and now he has to live
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      55


      with the disgrace of moving from God’s green pastures to

      God’s white and beautiful heaven, having looked like he had

      committed the ultimate sin.      We have to follow through with

      this.    We know whose office the order came from.    We have to

      put an end to it.     It’s up to people like you, people like

      me and people like our first caller.      Go ahead, Jack in

      Helena, Montana--,”
              “Turn that shit off,” Coop called from his chair,

      leaning over his scuffed Eagle Creek daypack.

              “I want to hear what he’s going to say.”

              “I’ll save you the time.    He’s going to blame

      everyone’s problems on the government,” he said as he

      stuffed a few pairs of jeans into the black pack.         “And he’s

      going to try and convince you that we as Americans aren’t

      going to be happy and successful unless we have the right to

      bear arms,” he said as he stuck the Browning 9mm in between

      the jeans and the tee-shirts.      He carried the weapon more

      out of habit than fear.       He didn’t expect any excitement on

      the road.    He just felt naked without it.

              “What’s wrong with the second amendment?”
              “Nothing.   I’m just saying that he relies on those

      less...,” he searched for the right phrase, “open to

      opposing views to follow his lead.      He looks for those who

      only get their information from one source.”       He slipped in

      a few pairs of thick white socks.      “People hear one thing
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     56


      long enough, they tend to believe it, Spot.”

              “Are you telling me there are no government

      conspiracies?”

              “Sure there are,” Coop said.   “But not to the extent

      that this guy says.      Hell, according to him, you’re part of

      a conspiracy.     You flew a black helicopter once, didn’t

      you?”
              “They were testing a special kind of paint,” Spot said.

       “To see if it would give off a radar image.”

              “Sure,” Coop said.    “That’s what they told you.”

              “How about you?” Spot asked, getting a beer from the

      fridge.    “You could be part of a conspiracy too.    You did

      work for the CIA.”

              “That’s right.   Me and a couple hundred thousand other

      people who have worked for them are all part of some giant

      government conspiracy,” he said.

              “It could happen,” Spot said and finished his beer.     He

      helped himself to the last Dos Equis, and noticed Coop’s

      small bag.    “A month on the road and that’s all you’re

      taking?”
              “It’s enough.    If I need anything else, I’ll get it

      later.”    Coop looped the bag over his shoulder, grabbed the

      Calloway Titanium-Shaft Big Bertha Driver Spot had bought

      him for his last birthday and a few sleeves of balls.        Spot

      followed him to the three car garage where he kept the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         57


      Hummer and the Harley.

            The black and chrome Harley Davidson Fat Boy leaned on

      its thin kickstand, waiting to be ridden.        Coop had made

      only a few modifications since he bought it.         A buddy of his

      who had worked on every kind of transmission known to man

      installed a suicide gear on the bike just after Coop bought

      it.   With two clicks up on the shifter, the bike would go
      backwards.    Like the Browning, Coop never thought he would

      need it.    It just felt good to have it.

            “Man, is she sweet.        I hardly ever see you ride this

      thing,” Spot said.

            “Well, today you can watch me ride all the way to end

      of the street.     After that you won’t see me for a month.”

      Coop secured Big Bertha and the pack.        He double checked his

      wallet for his license, concealed weapon permit, and his

      Visa card.    They hugged goodbye and each patted the other

      hard on the back the way men do.        Coop climbed aboard and

      hit the start button.         The bike came alive.   The noise made

      Spot step back.

            “Put in reverse,” Spot yelled.        “I want to see you go
      backwards.”

            Coop double clicked up, setting the bike into reverse.

      “Make sure there’s a few beers in the fridge when I get

      back,” Coop called over the noise.

            “Roger that,” Spot said, and pushed the button to open
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   58


      the garage door.

            “And don’t forget to feed the cat.”

            Spot answered with the thumbs up, and Coop gave the

      throttle a twist, sending the bike backward.   When he

      applied the back brake, and shifted into first he was still

      rolling back so the front tire lifted a few inches off the

      ground.   Then just for Spot’s benefit, Coop jerked back on
      the throttle and rode a wheelie until he had to shift to

      second.   He escaped around the corner, down Via DeLuna, and

      headed west in the cool April air, moving farther and

      farther away from Gabrielle.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       59




                                     Chapter 4


            In his private office in Crystal City, Virginia, hidden

      amongst the towering hotels and high tech companies, Senator

      McAlpin palmed his thinning gray hair and leaned against the

      mahogany desk a lumber lobbyist had given him for his help

      in defeating an environmental bill.        He was wearing his

      seer-sucker suit, because he thought the lines made him look

      a tad thinner.     “Sit down, Beckett,” he said.    “You say you

      got news?    What is it?      I’m a goddamn busy man.   If it’s

      about tonight, I told you--,”

            His assistant, Charles Beckett, put down the bottle of

      Jack Daniels and held up a slim finger, effectively hushing

      the Senator.    He flipped on the radio, settled into the

      comfortable burgundy leather wing chair with a sip of his
      drink, and asked in a very low tone, “Cleaning crew come by

      yesterday?"

            Beckett had ordered random sweepings for acoustical

      surveillance since a spike had been found buried halfway in

      the wall from the outside.       Its placement allowed it to pick
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    60


      up both sides of any conversation in the office whether in

      person or on the phone.

            It took a week, but Beckett traced the bug to its

      owner, Senator Randolph Berkshire.    He was some young,

      idealist politician who was hell bent on cleaning up

      politics, including, and especially, Senator McAlpin.

      Berkshire and his buddy Senator Varela, another young
      Senator from Florida, were on a mission to expose McAlpin

      and his contributions to the intelligence communities.

            Beckett confronted Berkshire at a White House dinner,

      and of course, Berkshire denied it all.    But Beckett waited

      until later that evening, and knowing that Berkshire tended

      to drink too much, kept pressing.

            “Maybe we did,” Berkshire eventually said.

            “I don’t think that was such a good idea, Senator,”

      Beckett said.     “Don’t you know that those little devices

      leave electronic fingerprints?”    He shook his head in

      disbelief.    “Man, whoever does your work for you needs a

      little education.     All it took was a couple of hours work

      and we knew it was you.”
            “So.   We got what we want,” Berkshire said.   “And a

      little more.    I didn’t realize you and McAlpin were, how

      shall I say it...so close?”

            Beckett struggled to remain composed.    “Gentlemen don’t

      listen to other gentlemen’s conversations, Senator.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       61


            Two days later, The Washington Post reported Berkshire
      was found dead on a park bench after having taken his own

      life with a handgun.      What they didn’t report and didn’t

      know was that an eavesdropping device has been shoved deep

      into his inner ear, a message from Senator McAlpin.       More

      directly, a message from Beckett.       It was the perfect hit.

      Only those who needed to know were aware it was a hit, and

      the idiot-masses would continue to believe it was suicide.

            "Yeah.   Yeah,” the Senator said, bringing Beckett back

      to the present.     “We swept the place just like you ordered,"

      the Senator said impatiently.       “Now what the hell do you

      have to tell me that’s so goddamn important?”

            Beckett had taken the call from Mothersole and began to

      explain to his boss just what had happened.       "As soon as she

      is able to determine what was taken, we’ll have a better

      idea,” he said.     Beckett removed the wire-rimmed glasses

      from his face and wiped his tired eyes.       He twirled the

      glasses in his fingers.

            “How the hell could this have happened?” the Senator

      said, still pacing the worn blue carpet.       “Mothersole had

      one of her premonitions last week and said something like

      this was going to happen,” he said shaking a thick finger at

      Beckett.    “You should have sent down a few men.”

            “On another fucking Mothersole premonition?       It was the

      third one this month.”        Beckett downed his drink and went
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    62


      for another.

            “Every agent we ever recruited is on those files,” the

      Senator said.     “It covers almost forty years of operations.

       How the hell could she have found them?”

            “Mothersole thinks the woman may have delivered there.”

            “I bet it was the goddamn Russians.    They’re always in

      on shit like this.”
            “Maybe,” Beckett said.

            “Hell, son, she had to have some kind of outside help.

       She couldn’t have done this alone.    Women aren’t that

      smart. And it sure as hell wasn’t an American.”

            “I don’t know, Senator.    America’s not trusting her

      government like they used to.    A lot of people are getting

      suspicious about a lot of things.”

            “This woman stole secrets pertaining to agents deeply

      implanted in foreign governments.    If she is Russian, Middle

      Eastern, or whatever, she’s effectively killed everyone of

      our agents.”    His chair squeaked as the Senator leaned

      forward.    “She needs to be demoted, Beckett.   Maximally.”

            “We’ve downloaded stills from the security cameras and
      faxed her picture to some people in the field.    We’ve got

      the airports and bus terminals staked.    We’re also

      monitoring all ticket sales.    First in the local area, then

      spreading out.     We’ve also got the interstates covered.    If

      she catches a cab in Bumfuck Egypt, we’re going to know
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      63


      about it.”    Beckett added another ice cube.    “We’ll have her

      here in 24 hours,” he said, sipping the drink.      The bourbon

      used to burn as it went down.       Now he felt hardly a tingle.

       “Can I get you one, Senator?”

              “What you can get me is that girl,” McAlpin said and

      crossed his hands across his substantial stomach.      He seemed

      a bit more relaxed.      “Are you sure you’ll have her by
      tomorrow?”

              “Positive,” Beckett said twirled the ice with his

      pinky.    “We’re getting an I.D. on the girl now, and as soon

      as it comes in, I’m having Justice issue an APB on her.

      Every backwoods yahoo across the country will be looking for

      her.”

              “What makes you so sure you’re going to get the full

      support of local law enforcement?”

              Beckett took another sip.     “Cops hate cop-killers,

      Senator.    “We’ll say she killed three D.C. cops during a

      liquor store hold up.”

              For the first time tonight, the Senator smiled.     It

      made Beckett happy.      “You’re brilliant, Beckett.   Absolutely
      brilliant.”

              “That’s why you pay me the big bucks, Senator.”

              “You just keep earning them, Beckett.    This is no time

      for a scandal.     Rumor has it I’m going to suffer a Senate

      inquiry.    So I can’t afford any negative press.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                          64


              “Negative press, Senator?” Beckett said.      “I don’t

      think this is what you would call negative press.          Fucking

      your assistant is negative press,” he said.        “Involving

      yourself in shady, Wall Street deals is negative press.          But

      this, Senator, this goes far beyond that.        For this, we all

      go to federal prison.         And for a very long time.”   Beckett

      finished his drink and set the glass on the Senator’s desk.
              McAlpin opened a drawer, took out his snub nosed .38

      and hefted it in his hand.        “That’s not going to happen,

      son,” he said, waving the gun around, taking aim at

      different objects in the room.        “There’s no way I can go to

      prison.”

              “Don’t worry about a thing,” Beckett said unfazed.

      “I’ll take care of everything.”

              “I know you will, Charles.      You always do.”    McAlpin

      slid the weapon into a clip-on holster and slipped it on his

      belt.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        65




                                      Chapter 5


            Kathryn adjusted the brunette wig, slipped on the thick

      glasses and situated her fake teeth as she sat in her car

      outside the First Tennessee Savings and Loan of Nashville.

      It was the third bank she had hit this morning.

      Fortunately, it was to be the last.         She checked her

      disguise in the rearview mirror of the Escort, then with all

      the confidence she could muster, said, “You’re going to make

      a great mom.”     But the strange face with the bucked teeth

      looked back at her through the mirror with a hollow stare.

      And even through the thick glasses, Kathryn could read the

      uncertainty in her own eyes. Her life had been scripted for

      success, and no where in the writing was there a part for a

      child.
            Kathryn was one of South’s most sought after

      architects, specializing in the redesign and remodeling of

      Ante Bellum mansions.         She had ten to fifteen projects at

      any given time in cities like Charleston, New Orleans,

      Savannah, and several smaller towns, never more than an hour
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       66


      long Delta flight from her home in Atlanta.      Ever since her

      work was featured in Architectural Digest and Southern

      Living during two consecutive months, the phones hadn’t

      stopped ringing.     Work was coming in faster than she

      could’ve ever imagined, giving her enough projects to keep

      her busy for two years.       She had no intentions of walking

      away from her business and she certainly had no intentions
      of being a mother.      But that was until she met Jonas.

            Kathryn was at another Atlanta charity event when he

      approached her.     She was sipping champagne with the Governor

      when the round faced, barrel-chested man wearing jeans and a

      khaki shirt approached her.

            “I’ve seen some of your work,” he said, ignoring the

      Governor.    “You’re quite good.”

            The Governor quickly stepped away from the man, leaving

      Kathryn alone with him.

            “Thank you,” she whispered as the politician left.         “I

      was trying to get rid of him all night.”

            “I never really cared for politicians,” the man said in

      a his deep, calming baritone voice.       “Can’t trust ‘em.”
            “All of them, or just some?” she asked.      She was ready

      for a little stimulating conversation.      The Governor had

      bored her practically to death.

            “All,” he replied.      “Every last one of those

      scoundrels.    They’re all evil,” he said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        67


             “Don’t tell me you’re one of those conspiracists,

      Mr...”

             “Jonas.”

             “Mr. Jonas.”

             “No,” he said.     “Just Jonas.”

             “Well?” Kathryn asked.

             “Am I a conspiracist?     That depends,” he said.    “Do you
      mean do I think the government is evil?        No.   But I think

      politician’s are, and I think arming the IRS with automatic

      weapons is wrong.”

             “They don’t arm the IRS,” she said.

             “Ma’am, the recent approved budget called for spending

      almost one million dollars on nine millimeters, AR-15s, and

      shotguns for our IRS agents.      Now I ask you, does that sound

      like a kinder and gentler IRS?”

             “That’s absurd,” she said.

             “But it’s true,” he replied.       “The budget is public

      record.    Look it up.”

             “I’ll have to do that,” she said and sipped her

      bourbon.    “So, what type of work do you do, Jonas?”
             Jonas waited to answer.     He waited until he was sure no

      one else was listening.       Then rather than answer, he pulled

      a some photographs from his breast pocket.        They were black

      and white shots of young boys in uniform.        He handed one to

      her.   “Does this boy look like anyone you know?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      68


            Kathryn studied the photo.     Something about the boy

      looked vaguely familiar, but she wasn’t sure enough to say.

       “Not really,” she said.

            “You had a child once, didn’t you?”

            It was one of the most painful memories of her life she

      had tried to keep tucked away, hidden in a small closet of

      her mind.    But suddenly the smells of that Tennessee clinic
      swept through the ballroom, the deep feeling of loss and

      disappointment swelled inside her as if she had lost her

      child at that precise moment, and a flash of nervous warmth

      spread through her body.      She never felt her knees give way.

       She never felt herself fall in to Jonas’ arms.

            Kathryn had never told the father.     They had parted a

      few weeks after the assignation.     Six weeks later, Kathryn

      took the test and saw the unmistakable blue line of

      pregnancy.    Unlike the majority of her contemporaries,

      Kathryn believed the woman’s right to choose also included

      the right to choose adoption.     She couldn’t terminate the

      pregnancy, and she was certainly not the mother--type.     A

      loving, two parent family was the only choice.
            Kathryn had isolated herself when she began to show,

      managing projects from her home, working through sub

      contractors, and refusing new projects.     The adoption agent

      had all the details lined up, a couple from Indiana had been

      selected to receive the child, the hospital and physician’s
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       69


      services had been paid.       Everything was going smoothly.

            Then came a problem with one of the estates in

      Tennessee.    The sub contractors she hired weren’t meeting

      the deadlines and, if she didn’t respond immediately, she

      was going to lose the $320,000 project.      She wanted to fly,

      but the doctor advised against it.      Instead, at seven months

      along, she drove.
            Kathryn had researched the process of gestation and she

      knew what a Braxton-Hicks was.      But as the pains kept

      getting worse, she kept driving.      Even when they started

      coming closer and closer together, she kept driving.        False

      labor, she kept telling herself.      It was only after her

      water broke, did she begin to look for a blue road sign to a

      hospital.

            She arrived in time to be checked in and questioned.          A

      heavy smoking nurse read from a clipboard.      Her badge said

      her name was Mothersole.       “Any living relatives?” the nurse

      asked, exhaling the last bit of smoke from her lungs.

            “No,” Kathryn replied.

            “No brothers or sisters?”
            “No.”

            “No aunts, uncles, anybody?”

            “No, dammit.    Just me.    Now can you start the goddamn

      epidural?”

            The nurse smiled slightly as she took her place behind
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        70


      the wheelchair.     “Let’s get you into a room.     We’ll get your

      epidural started as soon as we get there.”        She pushed her

      past the rooms of the small clinic.        The stench of feces and

      urine permeated the walls, the floors, the ceilings.           “I’ll

      bet your girlfriends threw you a big shower,” the nurse said

      trying to make small talk.

            “I don’t have any girlfriends,” Kathryn replied, taking
      the pain of another contraction.         After college she had

      lost touch with them.         And her career had kept her from

      meeting any new friends.

            “Then who’s helping you through the pregnancy?”

            “No one,” she said.        “No one even knows I’m going to

      have a baby.”     The nurse gave either a subtle laugh of

      satisfaction or a few grunts of sorrow.        Kathryn couldn’t

      tell and didn’t really care.        All she wanted was to get into

      the room and get the epidural started.

            The last thing she remembered clearly was rolling to

      her side, the stick of the needle, and the pressure as the

      nurse inserted the epidural.        She vaguely recalled a baby

      crying, the voice of a foreign doctor, and the fat nurse
      laughing.

            Eight hours later she awoke from the drugs.        Her

      stomach was flat but shapeless, the skin temporarily having

      lost its elasticity.      The pain from the episiotomy slowly

      began to register with her mind.        She looked around the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        71


      small room.    There was no TV, no phone, no chair for

      visitors.    Only a call button just out of reach.

              It was over.   And she was sad.   She had carried the

      baby for seven months and, though she tried to convince

      herself she wouldn’t, she knew she would forever wonder what

      her child was doing, what he or she looked like, and was he

      or she being loved.      Adoption was a difficult choice to
      make.    It would’ve been very easy for her to keep the baby,

      raising it as a single mother.     Most consider that to be

      very romantic; a single mother raising a child while trying

      to manage a successful business.       But she had a mother who

      chose a career over a daughter, and fortunately when her

      mother left, she had her dad to raise her.        Adoption was an

      honorable choice, and she was proud of the decision she

      made.

              The door opened and a nurse poked her head in.     “How’re

      you feeling,” she asked.

              “I could use something for the pain,” she said.     “I’m

      starting to feel the episiotomy.”

              “I’ll get Nurse Mothersole.”    And she backed out of the
      door.

              Moments later, the big nurse walked in and stood next

      to Kathryn.    She grabbed her wrist and checked her pulse.

      The woman smelled like tobacco.

              “Could I see my baby?”   Kathryn asked.    “I don’t even
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        72


      know if I had a boy or a girl.”

            “A boy,” Mothersole responded.

            “Can I see him?”

            Mothersole set the wrist down.     “How’s the pain?”

            “I need something,” she said.

            Mothersole pulled a syringe from her pocket and

      uncapped it.    “Roll to your side,” she said.     “This will
      take the edge off.”

            Kathryn turned in the bed, trying not to disturb the

      delicate stitches.      “When can I see him,” she asked again.

            “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Mothersole

      responded.

            “I just want to see him,” Kathryn pleaded.       “I just

      want to hold him.”

            Mothersole pulled Kathryn back toward her.       “Kathryn,”

      she said.    “There were some complications.      The doctor had

      to make a choice.”

            “What kind of choice?     What happened?”    The medication

      was instantly taking effect.     The pain was gone and the

      warmth spread to her chest and arms.
            Mothersole took Kathryn’s hand.     The nurse’s hands were

      rough and callused.      “Your baby was still born,” she said.

      She offered no apology, no excuse.

            “I heard him cry,” she said.     “He couldn’t.”    Her voice

      trailed off.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       73


            “It was just a dream,” Mothersole said.       “A

      hallucination caused by all the drugs.”

            “I just had an epidural,” Kathryn said, her head

      clouding as she desperately tried to form sentences.       “What

      did you give me?”

            “Something to make you relax,” Mothersole said.

      “Something to make you sleep.”
            “Am I going to sleep long?” she said.       The injection

      was making her say things she didn’t want to say.        “I don’t

      want to sleep long.      I want to go home,” she said.   “I want

      to see my baby.     My daddy would be proud.    I want my baby.

      I want my baby,” was the last thing she remembered saying to

      Mothersole.

                                    *   *      *

            When she finally came to, Jonas was kneeling over her,

      someone else offered her a glass of water, and a half dozen

      people looked on.     “She’s all right,” Jonas said to the

      crowd.   “Thanks for your help.       Now let’s give her some

      room.”   As the small crowd dispersed, Jonas helped her to

      her feet.    “Therapy hasn’t help much, has it?”
            Straightening her suit, Kathryn asked, “How did you

      know?”

            “There’s a lot I know about you, Kathryn.       I know your

      dad died your first year at Yale.       I know your mother--if

      you can call her that--runs one of the biggest ad agencies
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      74


      on the west coast.      I know you consider yourself a lousy

      potential mother.     And I also know five years of seeing a

      psychologist hasn’t diminished the love and the bond you

      have for the son you delivered.”

              He was impressive on all accounts.   Especially on the

      last two.    “So you’ve done your homework,” she said.    “What

      do you want with me?”
              Jonas wrote an address on the back of the boy’s

      picture.    “Meet me tomorrow at zero nine hundred.”

              Kathryn looked down momentarily to slip the photo into

      her purse.    When she looked up, he was gone.

              That night, she dug through old photos, looking for any

      picture of her as a child.     Finally, after going through her

      father’s old boxes, she found a few shots of her when she

      was five.    She held up the photos next to each other for

      comparison.    Kathryn and the boy had to same nose, the same

      eyes.    Even though the picture was black and white, she

      could still see the black drops in the boy’s iris.

              She wasn’t rich, but she had some money in the bank.

      So if this Jonas guy was conning her, he wasn’t going to get
      much.    With that in mind, she showed up at the address a

      little after nine.      It was an old bookstore located in a

      mostly black part of Atlanta.     The sign said the store was

      closed, but when Kathryn showed up at the door, a tall thin

      black man opened the door, ushered her in, and locked the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     75


      door behind her.     The place smelled like what it was; an old

      library full of musty books.

            “Upstairs,” the man said.     “He’s waiting.”

            Jonas sat at an antique table full of scratches and

      vandal’s carvings.      Next to him, was a stack of pictures, in

      front of him, lay what looked like a handwritten letter.

      “Sit down,” he offered as he stood.     “Tea?”
            “Let’s get to the point,” Kathryn said.     “I’ve got a

      plane to catch.”

            “Certainly,” the man said.

            “I’m not even sure why I’m here,” she said, trying to

      hide her curiosity.      He knew enough about her to make it

      interesting.

            “Ever seen a black helicopter?” he asked.

            “Jesus,” cried.     “Is this what this is all about?”

            “No,” he said emphatically.

            “What the hell is it then,” she asked.

            The man began a story so far fetched, Kathryn had

      trouble keeping up.      Jonas rambled on about black

      helicopters, factories in Mexico, the CIA, something he
      called Operation Prodigy.     His diatribe lasted almost three

      hours, though Kathryn listened for only one hour.       The rest

      on the time she spent thinking of her next vacation.      Though

      the work was piling up, she had to get away.     She thought

      about the Caymans, or Belize.     St. Kitts would be nice.     She
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     76


      always wanted to learn to dive.     She was going to stay at

      one of the dive resorts wherever she ended up.        Usually

      they’re tucked away from the usual tourist spots, giving you

      the opportunity to be a traveler and not a tourist.       She had

      already decided on a date and was just trying to figure out

      which rental car company to call when something stuck in her

      ears.
              “...your son’s there,” Jonas said, pointing at a photo

      of a red clay building surrounded by a ten-foot barbed wire

      fence.    “They go to the rifle range every morning at ten.

      This one was taken just after he finished.”

              “My son?” she said.   “I don’t have a son?”

              Jonas nodded toward the picture she held.     “That’s

      him,” Jonas said.     “And if you do exactly what I tell you,

      you can get him back.”

              And now, a month later, Kathryn was sitting outside the

      bank, doing everything Jonas had told her, including wearing

      the cheap wig, fake teeth and opening safe deposit boxes all

      over Nashville.

              Once inside the bank, relieved there were no metal
      detectors, she peered out of the smoked-glass door to see if

      anyone had followed her.      Once secure, she approached a

      teller.    “I’d like to get a safe deposit box, please.”

              “Right this way, mam,” the woman said, and came from

      around the window and introduced herself as Marjorie
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      77


      MacDowell, a Vice President.     “I’ll just need to get some

      information from you,” Ms. MacDowell said.     “Do you have

      your drivers license, Ms.--”

              “Thompson.   Mindy Thompson,” Kathryn said, looking

      through her purse for her identification.     “I know it’s in

      here somewhere.      These purses,” she said, “you’d think that

      for what you pay for them, they would keep you better
      organized.”    She held the purse at an angle so the woman

      couldn’t see the small .38 caliber tucked in a corner.

      Kathryn continued to dig, careful not to bring out the wrong

      license.    “Here it is,” she said and held it up.

              Kathryn halfway listened as the woman gave her ten

      minute speech on security, confidentiality, and access.       In

      the end, whoever had the key had access.     She just needed to

      dump the files off and get on the road.     She didn’t care

      about bank hours or how many tellers they had, or what time

      the guard comes in.      If McAlpin knew she had a box, he could

      get to it anyway.     “Can I just get to the boxes please?” she

      said.

              “Oh,” the woman said, as if she was disappointed that
      she wasn’t going be able to finish her speech.      “I guess.”

              Kathryn followed her down a long hallway.    The polished

      floors reminded her of the clinic, but without the stench of

      urine.

              Inside the vault, Ms. MacDowell expertly found the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       78


      right box and, using two keys, pulled number 335 out of its

      slot.    “Will this size do?” she asked.

              “It’ll be fine,” Kathryn replied.

              “There are cubicles back there for your privacy,” she

      said and handed Kathryn the box.

              Inside the cubicle, Kathryn transferred the files and

      the computer disks from her backpack to the box.      She shut
      the box and gave it to MacDowell.     She hid the key in a

      small compartment of her daypack.     Moments later, she

      emerged into the early Tennessee sun, ready for the drive to

      Arizona.

              She had wanted to fly, but Jonas had said, “They’ll

      have agents at every airport, bus terminal, and train

      station looking for you." His voice was deep and resonant

      and he spoke with the right mix of authority and tenderness.

       "Every rental car contract will be screened for one way

      rentals.    And those will be screened for women traveling

      alone, paying cash.      The government can find out anything it

      wants, anytime it wants to,” he said.       “They’ll also have

      checkpoints at every on and off ramp the interstate has.”
              “What then?” she asked.   “How do I get back?”

              “Take five thousand dollars and buy a car.    Then take

      the back roads all the way to Arizona.”

              “Buy a car?” she asked, somewhat surprised.

              “From some kid out of the paper,” he continued.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     79


      “Dealers ask too many questions and want to keep you there

      all day.    Give the kid his asking price in cash and take the

      car.    Tell him you’ll meet them the next day to sign the

      papers.    The whole process should take less time than it

      takes to rent one.”

              She had found a bland Ford Escort with forty-thousand

      miles on it for $4800.        The air condition and the radio
      worked.    It didn’t go too fast, but it blended in with the

      rest of the cars on the road.

              Now she sat waiting to pull out into the late morning

      traffic, looking for Highway 70 west, the first leg of her

      trip.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       80




                                    Chapter 6


             April was still biting cold in the Virginia suburbs as

      Senator McAlpin and Beckett jogged around Burke Lake.       The

      tiny gravel crunched under their slow moving feet and

      Beckett wished the Senator could run faster.     It was too

      damn cold to run that slow.

             Between huffs, the Senator said, “Twenty four hours,

      son.   That’s what you told me.     Your twenty four hours is

      long gone.”

             “Yes sir.   I know,” Beckett said.   He hated

      disappointing the Senator.      “We got the film from the

      security cameras and we have identified her, though.”

             “Who is she?”

             “Kathryn Tillman.”
             “She been to the clinic before?”

             “About five years ago,” Beckett said.    “That’s how we

      I.D.’d her.”

             The Senator stopped in his tracks.    He wasn’t going

      very fast so it wasn’t such a sudden stop.     “Goddamn it!”      A
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        81


      group of joggers were approaching, and he waited for them to

      pass, then kept his voice low.       “If she goes to the press,

      we’re fucked.”

              “If she was going, she would have gone by now,” Beckett

      said.

              “That’s bullshit, son.     She can go anytime she wants.”

       The Senator began moving again.       “And I’ve got enough
      problems with the press right now.       That little punk Senator

      from Florida is screaming for hearings on my agent

      recruitment practices.        I think it’s a bunch of shit.   I

      mean who cares how we recruit those people,” he said.         “You

      know whose fault this is?       Talk radio and that General

      Wright whacko.”     The Senator must have watched Rocky last

      night because he began shadowing boxing as he puttered.

      “What about the girl?”        Beckett had never seen the Senator

      shadow box before.      It was all in slow motion, and the fat

      man could barely get his fists past the girth of his waist.
      Beckett had to look away to keep from laughing.

              “Well, sir, we’ve accessed her accounts--”

              “Did you freeze them?” he said with a left jab.       “I

      want you to freeze them.”       Then another left jab followed by

      a right hook.

              “No sir.   If we did that, she’d know we were on to her.

       We’ve just accessed them.       This way if she makes any kind

      of transaction, we can find her.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        82


              “Good thinking.   I want this bitch wiped out,” he said

      and threw another jab.        “And then I want to go after that

      fucking idiot General Wright.        Goddamn, he’s a pain in my

      ass,” the Senator said and landed a solid right uppercut.

      He raised his hands in the air and did a little victory

      dance as if he were just declared the winner.

              “Sir.   The way I see it, if she had gone to the press
      already, we would have heard about it.        If she had given it

      to anyone, we’d have heard about.”        Beckett shook his head.

       “No.    I think she secured it somewhere, like a safe deposit

      box.”

              “If she’s stupid enough to put it in one, then our

      problems are over, son.”

              “Right now we’re examining all of the security footage

      from all the banks within a 100 mile radius of the clinic

      and comparing it with the video from the clinic.”

              “What if someone else dropped it off?”

              “I don’t think so.      If she had an accomplice, she would

      have had someone else with her at the clinic.        She barely

      got out of there alive, you know.”
              “How could she have accessed all the information

      without inside help?”         The Senator stopped again.   “Who else

      works at the clinic besides Mothersole?        Anyone else we’re

      paying?”

              “There’s a new doctor.      Langston, I think his name is.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        83


            “How does he play into this?”

            “He doesn’t.    He has no clue.”

            “Background check come back okay?”

            “Yes sir.    The 398 came back clean.”

            “Where was he when all this was going on?”

            “He tackled Mothersole out of defense of the girl.       A

      natural thing to do if you don’t know what’s going on.”
            “Check this guy out again.      Find out who he calls,

      where he goes to drink beer, where he gets his laundry done.

       I want two men on him everywhere.       If he shits, I want to

      know what color.”

            “Yes sir.”

            “And find the files.      I don’t care if you have to check

      every goddamn safe deposit box in the fucking country.”

            “Yes sir,”    Beckett said.    They started to jog again

      but Beckett’s cellular phone rang.       Yeah?   Okay.

      Outstanding.”     He folded the phone and slipped into his

      pocket.

            “Good news?” the Senator asked.

            “Very good.    Let’s run,” he said smiling, nodding his
      head toward the path.

            The path wound it way up small hills through the leave-

      less elm and oak trees.       A family of bikers passed them from

      behind, all wearing brightly colored helmets.

            “Those things look so fruity,” the Senator said.       “Do
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   84


      they really work?”

            “You’re going to say they do when the mandatory bicycle

      helmet law comes up for debate.     The manufactures have put a

      lot of money into your campaign.”

            “As long as I don’t have to wear one, the Senator said.

       “Who was on the phone?”

            “You’ll like this,” Beckett said.    He knew his boss was
      going to be proud of him.     “We’ve found the girl.   She wrote

      a check for car repairs in Cherryvale, Kansas.”

            “That is good news.     Who are you going to send?”

            “If I could, I’d send Mallory,” Beckett said.

            “He’s the best,” the Senator added.

            “Yeah, but he’s out of the country.    On Company

      business.”

            “What about Stevenson?” the Senator asked.

            “Can’t.    His wife’s having the baby soon.   He wants to,

      get this, ‘bond’ with his new son.”
            “How about Riddley?”

            “Detox.”

            “I see,” said the Senator.    “What about the FNGs.”

            “Howell and Krispinski?” Beckett asked.    “They’re fresh

      out of the Company and have never done any contract work

      before.

            “They can handle it.    And they’re cheap.”

            “All right.    But if they fuck it up, don’t come
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    85


      bitching to me,” Beckett said as they shuffled over the dam.

            “And, Beckett,”

            “Yes sir?”

            “Make sure we send Stevenson’s wife a card.   Having a

      child is the most splendid event in a woman’s life.”

            “I’ll take care of it.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   86




                                    Chapter 7


              After a week on the road, the soreness had all but

      faded from Coop’s rear as the custom-made leather seat

      finally began to break in.      He had reached the small,

      southeastern Kansas town of Cherryvale around five.     He had

      planned to camp at Big Hill State Park right on the lake,

      but the weather was threatening, and he had camped for four

      nights in a row.     Tonight a clean, comfortable hotel looked

      good.    Actually, any hotel looked good.   His back was

      killing him from sleeping on the ground, and he needed a

      shower.    He was beginning to smell pretty gamey.

              He found the Inn of Cherryvale--a pretentious name for

      a dusty roadside motel-- and pulled into the empty parking

      lot to check in.     The room had one king bed and a small bath
      that had been last remodeled in the early sixties.     A rotary

      dial phone was on the nightstand.

              Coop sat on the bed and stared at the phone.   He stared

      at it for almost a minute before he picked up the handset.

      He knew her number by heart, and knew she’d probably answer.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        87


      She may even talk for a while.        He wouldn’t mind hearing her

      voice.    He had seen in the movies where the guy calls the

      girl, then hangs up as she answered, only wanting to hear

      her voice.    And until that very moment, poised in front of

      the ancient phone, he never understood why they did that.

      Coop dialed the first ten numbers, waiting, summoning his

      courage for the last.         He waited, hoping some sudden urge of
      adrenaline would rush through him, forcing him to dial the

      last number.

              But then there was the waitress from the Oasis.      He

      remembered seeing her a few times coming and going from

      Gabrielle’s apartment complex.        She might answer the phone,

      and he wouldn’t know what to say.        He would have to hang up

      without hearing Gabrielle’s voice.        He certainly couldn’t

      ask to speak to Gabrielle then hang up the phone.

              But it was late, and the waitress was probably already

      at work.    As he tossed that theory around, his confidence
      grew.    The waitress would be at work, Gabrielle would be

      alone.    She’d have to answer the phone.      She would think

      it’s her waitress.      Her waitress.    She would hope it’s her

      waitress.    She would hope it’s her waitress and not him.

      Coop stared at the phone for another minute before he

      lowered the handset to the cradle.

              He lay back on the bed and shut his eyes.      It had been

      a long day, and tomorrow’s leg was even longer.        Perhaps
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      88


      he’d get a steak later.       A steak always cheered him up.

              After laundry detail and a shower, he walked across the

      parking lot to the Torch Lounge and Family Restaurant.         The

      inside was like it should be with dark panel walls and

      plastic tablecloths.      Football memorabilia decorated the

      room--mostly old Chiefs posters, game jerseys and kicking

      tees.    A couple of autographed helmets were covered in dust
      and hanging from the ceiling by fishing line.      One side of

      the building was the bar, the other was the restaurant

      boasting of home cooked meals like Grandma used to make.

      Coop never knew his grandma, but tonight he was hoping she

      was a damn good cook.

              There were no windows in the bar, so it took some time

      for his eyes to adjust.       An elderly woman in a tuxedo shirt

      and a red bow tie was finding things to do behind the bar.

      A table of three men looked as if they were about to leave.

      An elderly couple sat in the corner under a Bud Light sign,

      and an attractive woman sat alone, nursing what looked like

      a bourbon.    He passed the bar and ordered a beer.    No Dos

      Equis, so he took a Bud Light.      He found a table where he
      could watch the comings and goings of the room.

              The bartender delivered his beer and a bowl of fresh

      pretzels as the three men left.      The woman ordered another

      bourbon, and the couple ordered more gin and tonics.      He

      looked at the woman without being noticed.      She was around
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     89


      thirty.    There were only two chairs at her table, and she

      had her purse in one of them.    With only one napkin on the

      table, he pegged as a lone drinker.    If she were waiting for

      someone, a seat would have been ready, and there would

      likely be another napkin on the table.

              The woman personified suburbia, looking like she had

      just come from running the kids to swim practice in her
      Honda Accord, or more likely, her minivan.    Maybe after

      happy-hour, she was off to a PTA meeting or a Junior League

      fund-raiser.

              But at closer examination, her clothes were a touch too

      wrinkled, she rubbed her eyes as if they were tired, and her

      face took the sallow look of a bored traveler.

              Coop ordered another beer as two men walked into the

      bar.    One had stringy blonde hair too long for a man his

      age.    The other was overweight, but had very muscular arms.

       They were a little too loud to be completely sober.

              “Gimme me a beer, Betty,” the blonde said.   “And one

      for Dewayne too.”     With their backs against the bar, resting

      on their elbows, and holding their beers, they surveyed the
      room.    They dismissed Coop and the couple immediately and

      walked over to the Junior Leaguer.    With their backs to

      Coop, he couldn’t hear what they were saying.    From time to

      time he established eye contact with the woman and even once

      he flashed her the okay sign, and she signaled back that she
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       90


      was fine.

            A beer later, they were still there, though he had

      given up checking on her.       He wasn’t about to get involved

      in the local BS that goes on in hotel bars/family

      restaurants.    He was just an observer.      Nothing more.

            Another beer, and Coop was looking around the room when

      his eyes met the woman’s.       She was frantically trying to get
      his attention and looked like she had been trying for

      awhile.   Maybe it was because the two guys were such losers

      that he decided to help.       Maybe it was because she wasn’t so

      unattractive.     Whatever it was, he walked over to her table

      with a plan in mind.      A subtle plan.

            “Oh, my God,” Coop said, overly enthusiastic and

      bordering on flamboyance.       “Is that you?   I haven’t seen you

      in years.”    He opened his arms for a hug, and as she held

      him close, he whispered in her ear, “What’s your name?”

            “Kathryn.”

            “I’m Coop,” he said and released the hold.       Ignoring

      the men completely, he pulled up a chair and sat facing her

      with his back to them.        “Kathryn, I haven’t seen you in
      years.    How the hell have you been?      Jeffrey is always

      asking about you, you know.       How’s Mel and the boys?     I

      heard he’s off the bottle.”

            “He’s doing fine,” she said.       Coop could see she was

      trying not to smile.      “How is Jeffery?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        91


              “Wonderful.    He’s learning to drive again.   Ever since

      he was thrown off that mechanical bull in Key West, he

      hasn’t been the same.”        As he spoke, he watched the

      reflection in her eyes in case the two guys tried anything.

       The woman possessed the most beautiful eyes.       They were the

      shade of jade, only deeper.       And on each iris, a little

      pupil-black had spilled into a deep ocean of green.         Coop
      had almost forgotten about watching the reflection when a

      movement reminded him.

              Coop was sitting with the two men behind him.       It was a

      very non-threatening position, but a position that could

      quickly change.       His chair was intentionally pushed away

      from the table, and he sat on the edge, allowing him to

      stand quickly without knocking over the table or having to

      back up.    He watched her eyes widen as he felt a hand on his

      shoulder.

              “Me and Dewayne was here first, tinkerbell.     So whyn’t

      you do the polite thing and leave before we have to make you

      leave.”

              Coop stood slowly, raising his hands as if to
      surrender, mostly a show for the old couple and the

      bartender.    Coop didn’t want to be labeled a trouble-maker

      in some small town.      “Look, mister,” he said with a slight

      lisp.    “I don’t want any trouble.     I’m just having a drink

      with an old friend.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         92


            “Elmo,” Betty called from the bar.        “Leave that couple

      alone.”

            “Elmo?”   Coop said in amazement.       He couldn’t resist.

      “Your parents named you Elmo?”

            “Yeah, what of it?” Elmo said.

            “Nothing,” Coop said almost laughing.        He looked to

      Kathryn and said, “I just thought that Elmo was the kind of
      name people made up.”

            When he turned back to the two men, his jaw was met

      with a bony fist.     Coop’s head snapped back, and he grabbed

      his chin and rubbed it.       “C’mon, Elmo.   You’re going to have

      to better than that,” Coop said and pointed to his chin.

      “I’ll let you try again.       Right here.”

            Elmo looked to Dewayne for support.        Dewayne shrugged

      and said.    “Fuck it.    Hit him again.”     Elmo nodded, reared

      back and swung as hard as he could.

            In the last moment possible, Coop moved his chin out of

      the way, and as Elmo’s momentum carried him, Coop used the

      leverage to catch him.        He grabbed him under the arms, spun

      him around and pushed him into his buddy.        The two collided,
      and before they could fall, Coop began pushing both of them

      toward the door, each stumbling with every shove.

            Just as they were about to regain their balance, Coop

      would push again.     If they had fallen, they would’ve been

      able to compose themselves, but a man will resist being
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        93


      pushed to the ground.         It was a matter of pride.

             Elmo and Dewayne fought to keep their balance all the

      way out the door into the parking lot where, with no one

      around to have to prove anything too, they stumbled into

      their truck and drove off.        Coop walked back into the dark

      bar, adjusting his eyes and wondering how the woman was

      going to react.     He could never tell these things.
             Inside, her glass was there, but her purse wasn’t so he

      took his beer back to his table and finished it.

                              *           *        *

             After a surprisingly thick and tender steak, Coop went

      back to his small room, got out the map and called Spot at

      his bar.

             “How’s the trip?”       Spot asked.

             “Going well.”    Coop cradled the phone on his shoulder

      and massaged his sore rear through his jeans.        “How’s the

      damn ca--”

             “I’ll bet you got a woman at every stop, you dog,” Spot

      interrupted.      Coop could hear the music in the background.

      “Where are you?”
             “Kansas.    Cherryvale,” he said.     “Have you seen the ca-

      -,” Coop tried.

             “Guess who stopped in last night and asked about you.”

      Coop was about to guess it was Gabrielle, but Spot cut him

      off.   “Dr. Chang.     She wanted to know how your trip is going
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         94


      where you are, things like that.        She says she’s still

      waiting for her postcard.”

              “Tell her I’ll send her one tomorrow.”

              “Where are you headed?      Everyone around here is dying

      to know.    Anna won’t leave me alone--Oh shit.      She just

      walked in.    She’s been on pins and needles waiting for you

      to call.    Hold on.”    Coop could hear Spot mumbling to Anna.
              “Coop?”   Anna’s accent and soft voice were a welcome

      change from the hard road and the loud bike.        “How are you?

       Where are you?”     Her enthusiasm brought a smile to Coop’s

      face.

              “I’m fine.   I’m in Kansas.”

              “I’ve heard of that place.      Watch out for the tornadoes

      and the monkeys with wings.”

              “I will,” he said.

              “We all miss you,” she said.      “We are all living very

      carelessly through you, Coop.”        She covered the mouthpiece,

      and Coop heard more mumbling.        “Sorry,” she said when she

      returned.    “Vi--care--e--us--lee.      We are all living

      vicariously through you.”
              “Then tell everyone they’re having a blast,” Coop said.

              She said goodbye and Spot returned to the line.        “Some

      guy named Dan called.         He wants you to call him.

              “How’s the ca--,” Coop tried.

              “How’s Big Bertha?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                           95


             “Haven’t used her yet.       I’m saving her for the big

      drive.    Has the ca--”

             “Ah.   The big drive.      The world record drive.    The mile

      drive.”

             “That’s the one.”       He felt like Spot was dodging his

      question and tried again.        “How’s the cat?”

             “Hey, Coop.   I’d better go.      One of the doormen needs
      me.”

             “Hold it, Spot.    How’s the cat?”

             There was silence on the line.          Then Spot said, “The

      cat?   I don’t know.     I haven’t seen it for a week.”

             “A week?   What happened?      Did you run out of food?    Did

      you give her the right kind?”

             “Yes, the food is still there.”

             “Did you change it everyday?       You know she likes it

      when you change it everyday.        I goes stale.”

             “I’ve done all that.       I don’t know how else to tell

      you, Coop.    The cat’s gone.”

             “Have you shaken the bag outside?”         Coop asked.

      “She’ll come if you do that.”
             “Look, Coop,” Spot said.       “I don’t know where the cat

      is.    But if it makes you feel any better, I’ll check for

      road-kill on my way home tonight.”

             “That’s very thoughtful, Spot.”         Coop rubbed his eyes.

       “Just do me a favor.         Find the cat.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        96


            Coop hung up the phone, crawled into bed and made a few

      notes into his tape recorder.         He had brought along a

      Panasonic micro cassette to take notes.          The plan was to

      record the notes, label the cassettes, and when he amassed

      enough, mail them back to his post office box in Gulf

      Breeze.   At the end of the trip, he would use the tapes to

      write his book.     A book about what, he didn’t know.
            When the tape ran out, he labeled it, put in a small

      case with five others and slid the tapes into an envelope.

      He addressed it, stamped it, and lay it next to the

      nightstand to mail in the morning.           Coop dozed off wondering

      why the cat would’ve left, and why he cared that it did.

                                    *   *      *

            Kathryn leaned against the headboard of the small bed

      as the constant thoughts from the past month returned and

      Kathryn, having no role model to follow, worried what kind

      of mother she was going to be.        It was a role for which she

      had never prepared, nor had anyone’s practical experience

      from which to draw.      Her own mother had left when Kathryn

      was in second grade.
            Jacqui, as she preferred to be called, rather than

      mother, was the only workaholic/alcoholic Kathryn had ever

      known.

            On the weekends it was Bloody-Mary mornings, white wine

      lunches, and cape cod afternoons.        The only time she didn’t
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     97


      drink was when she was at the office.      She seldom made it

      home before Kathryn’s bedtime, and when she did, she was

      usually passed out on the couch by nine o’clock.

              So it was a big surprise that Tuesday afternoon when

      Jacqui came home before dark,      bounded out of her

      convertible Mercedes and ran awkwardly to the yard where

      Kathryn was playing catch with her dad.
              “I’ve got the best news,” Jacqui screamed.      “It’s

      incredible!”

              Her dad slipped off the glove and took Kathryn’s small

      hand.    Together they walked to the fence that separated the

      yard from the driveway.       Across the fence, her mother stood

      beaming.    But no matter how hard her mother had worked in

      the past, no matter how many nights Kathryn had tried to

      stay awake, waiting for her mom to come home, she never

      could have imagined she would hear what she was about to

      hear.    “What’s the good news?” her dad asked.

              Jacqui could hardly contain herself, but this kind of

      news was best discussed over cocktails.      “Let’s go inside,”

      she said.    “I need to relax.”    Relaxing was her euphemism
      for having three of four drinks.        And special occasions

      called for Margaritas, so she made her family wait until she

      had salted her blue rimmed glass, filled it with ice, Jose

      Cuervo, and a splash of mix.      Then, as she settled into the

      corner of the couch, stirring her drink with her finger, she
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        98


      gave her notice.       “I’ve been given a promotion.   Given?

      What am I talking about.      Hell, I earned it.”

              Her dad leaned over the bar to offer a congratulatory

      kiss on the cheek, but Jacqui turned away at the last

      second.    “Can you believe it?” she said to Kathryn.

              “When does it go into effect?”    Robert asked.

              “As soon as we get there,” she said.
              “Get where?”    Kathryn asked.

              “Seattle,” Jacqui replied.    “The corporate off--.”

              “Seattle?” her father interrupted.    “We never talked

      about moving to Seattle.”

              “I didn’t think there was anything to talk about,” she

      said.    “I got a promotion.”    She declared it as if it were

      only factor to be taken into consideration.

              “But I can’t go to Seattle,” he said.    “And Kathryn’s

      right in the middle of her school year.      We just can’t pack

      up and leave.”

              “That’s fine,” she said.    “Come at the end.”    She took

      a long hit of her drink and brushed the salt from the corner

      of her mouth.     “And you’re cases should be settled by then.
      You can start with a new firm there.”

              “Jesus, Jacqui, I have my own practice here.      I just

      can’t pack up and move.”

              Jacqui took another sip.    “I guess you have a decision

      to make then.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      99


            A week later, Kathryn felt her father’s thick hands on

      her shoulders as she cried on the front porch, watching her

      mother drive away.

            Though she didn’t understand why until she was an

      adult, life, from then on, seemed a little easier with fewer

      emotionally taxing days.      There was no more trying to wait

      up for Jacqui to come home so Kathryn could tell her about
      her report card, no more listening from another room as

      Jacqui raged uncontrollably and incoherently at Kathryn’s

      father, no more watching her pass out on the couch Saturday

      and Sunday nights after drinking all day, no more wondering

      if she was going to show up at her softball games.

            But even knowing that her mother was two thousands

      miles away didn’t stop Kathryn from searching the bleachers

      every time she stepped up to bat.     Like every other child

      whose parents divorced, she prayed every night that her mom

      would come home.

            But she never saw her mother again after waving to her

      from the porch.     Jacqui did call occasionally, but mainly on

      her birthdays--her own birthdays.
            Kathryn’s father, a man who preferred to be called

      daddy, was a prominent Atlanta attorney who always managed

      to make time to see his daughter’s school plays, cheer her

      on at her softball games, or help her with her homework.

      Her father hardly dated and never remarried.     His entire
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     100


      focus was on trying to be a good father.       He had cut his

      work load in half, seeing only a few new clients whose cases

      he knew he could win or settle.       Through the years, it was

      her father who stayed up with her through her first break

      up, the time she lost her best friend to cancer, and the

      many nights she couldn’t sleep, wondering what she did that

      made her mother leave.
            Her father was with her the first night she got her

      period, and was as surprised as she was.       He thought she

      wouldn’t get it until her sixteenth birthday.

            “You know,” she remembered him saying, “When you get

      your drivers license.”        But a week after she turned

      thirteen, it arrived.

            After having gone to bed early with stomach pains, she

      awoke at two a.m., screaming at the sight of blood on her

      sheets.   Seconds later her father rushed in, stopping at the

      doorway as if to assess the situation.       She’d never forget

      the way he stood there, filling up the doorway, a reassuring

      look on his face.     Instantly she knew she’d be all right.

            A moment later, he had calmed her down with just a
      touch, found a left-behind box of Tampax, and gave the best

      instructions he could on how to use it.       Once she was calm

      and in bed again, her dad went an all night pharmacy and

      picked up a fresh box so she could change it in the morning.

            That was seventeen years ago, and every night rather
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    101


      than praying for her mom to come home, she wished to have

      one more day with her father.      Two months after she went off

      to Yale, her father, after just dropping off his first date

      in years, was killed by a drunk driver.

            The memory of her father, the picture permanently

      etched in her mind was the way he looked at her the night at

      thirteen.    It was a look of total strength, reassurance, and
      understanding.     It was a look that made Kathryn know

      everything was going to be fine, because he was there to

      help her.    She had never seen that look on any other man,

      until tonight, when she saw it on Coop’s face.

            She had waited for three days for her car to be fixed

      and was now getting restless, ready to knock on Coop’s door

      and ask for a ride to Arizona.      So far she had done just

      what the Jonas had told her.      No ATMs, credit cards, and no

      main roads.    But now she was stuck and alone, afraid to wait

      for her car any longer.       The biker was her only hope.

            She dug through her purse and pulled out a photo of a

      crewcut blonde five year old wearing epaulets and insignias.

       She stared at the picture, fixated on the child’s eyes,
      until she drifted off to sleep.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    102




                                    Chapter 8


            “...and that’s why I say the Mexican economy is taking

      over this beautiful country that our grandfathers, our

      fathers, our sons and ourselves have fought for.     Is this

      the tiny train of America’s moral conscious jumping track?

      Have we beamed ourselves off the world for a day and got

      back on?

            “For example, today we have babies being taken away

      from their loving mother’s arms and being sent to special

      schools then indoctrinated in the covert services of the

      government.    These children--ten, twelve and fourteen year

      olds are given fake papers and sent to Russia to go to

      Russian schools and join the Russian military, all the while

      covertly working for Uncle Sam.      Man, I got to tell you,
      that’s some kind of uncle who would do that to small

      children.    But praise God, it looks like enough of you

      people have contacted your Congressmen and Senators, and now

      a hearing will be conducted.      Once the evil is exposed and

      the judgement has been cast down, we can bring the children
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      103


      home to mama and papa.        We can put an end to the kidnapping

      of babies.    We’ll have to find something else to put on the

      milk cartons now that government is giving back our

      children.

            “Friends, I was very pleased that we could unite our

      front and accomplish this sacred mission.       It’s under the

      rules of God and man that made America the great nation it
      once was.    But America, I think, is in decline, and if you

      refuse to recognize that, maybe you should submit your

      backside as a bicycle rack to perform some good social

      service.

            “On a side note, in Birmingham Alabama, next weekend,

      we will be conducting the ninth stage of our TACT training.

      This module will be on High Speed Defensive Driving.       Fly

      in, or drive in.     We will be providing the cars.    Now, if

      you can’t be with us in 3D, you can order the TACT training

      videos for all 13 modules by calling 1-800-555-TACT.       While
      you’re on the phone, why not order the 365 days of food and

      water.   We don’t make any money on this, folks.      We just try

      to break even.     I’ve got all the money I need to last me.

      And let me tell you it’s not all dollars.       When Armageddon

      comes, U.S. dollars won’t do you much good.       Gold is going

      to be the national standard.       Which reminds me, on

      tomorrow’s broadcast we will have a gentleman here that will

      be able to answer your questions on buying and selling gold.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        104


              “Now for the years that I’ve been host of this show,

      I’ve told you that the churches are charitable, and

      donations are tax-deductible.        And their doors should be

      open.    But sometimes, they’re not.      Now, I give to Salvation

      Army because throughout my life as a G.I., we didn’t have to

      pay for the doughnuts when the Salvation Army was there.

      Their doors were always open.        They always had three hots
      and a cot just for listening to the preacher.        But at least

      those churches had their arms out.

              “Then, there’s the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford

      Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, and others just like

      it.   They are all multi-billion dollar organizations.       All

      charitable, totally tax-deductible.        They give the rich

      people that control them Cadillacs, boats, airplanes to fly

      and fine homes to live in.        That’s where your donations go--

      to those rich people.         And if you notice, you’ll see that

      those are the same few people that are controlling the money

      supply throughout the world.        All part of the G-7.   The

      seven headed beast.      Revelations.    Let me read to you this

      passage, if I may...,”
              Dorthy Halston slipped her feet into her pink terry

      cloth slippers and shuffled across the oak floor to the

      bathroom, stifling a yawn along the way.        The old house was

      unusually cold for a South Dakota April morning, and she

      wondered if the pilot light had gone out again.        She exhaled
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       105


      hoping she could see her breath, confirming her existence.

      It was three-thirty-nine as always, when she got into the

      shower and soaped up her gray hair and soft, wrinkled skin.

            Dorthy put on her uniform, leaving the apron off for

      now and went to the kitchen for coffee.        She flipped on the

      radio to General Wright.        She loved listening to him.   Her

      second husband, Garrett, had started listening in the
      mornings before opening the diner, and she reluctantly got

      hooked.   It was General Wright’s firm, but caring tone.       One

      that reminded her of her own grandfather’s.        Though

      sometimes the topics forayed into the unbelievable and

      conspiratorial, she still liked to listen, and she only

      believed about half of what he said.        She had been around

      long enough to know that the government is not always right.

      And until recently, it was difficult to believe the IRS was

      a criminal organization and paying taxes violated the

      constitution.

            She had always excelled in school and though

      embarrassed to admit it, was actually a certified genius.

      But after marrying her first husband Winston, a professor
      she had met after one of his lectures, she was content to

      finish college and stay home.        They were married for thirty

      seven years and had one child who died at birth after a

      complicated delivery.         Because of the complications, Dorthy

      also suffered the loss of any other children she may have
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      106


      ever wanted.

            Though Winston was a great mathematician, he was not an

      intelligent investor.         And when he died of lung cancer, he

      left Dorthy penniless.        More out of need than love, she met

      and married Garrett, the owner of a diner out by the

      interstate.    He had kept her safe, warm, and fed, though it

      was mostly diner food.        Dorthy fell in love with Garrett
      over time and tried hard to be a good wife.        They had almost

      twelve years together, and two years ago, he died a truly

      happy man.    Those were his last words to her.      “You made me

      a truly happy man,” he said, and passed on.        She sat at his

      bed until they took him away, and now she sleeps on his side

      and still dreams of him.

            When she’s feeling better, she often jokes with the

      other waitresses that with the average length of today’s

      marriages, she could probable live long enough for one more.

            Garrett had left her the diner.        And though it was paid

      for, he’d had a problem with back taxes and Dorthy inherited

      those problems as well.        Lately she could feel the IRS

      circling above as she planned ways to pay off the debt.
      Twice they levied her account taking over $600 each time.

      It was everything she owned.        If she sold the diner, she

      could just cover the taxes.        She still had some time to

      formulate a plan.     There’s always hope.

            The only family Dorthy had now was the waitresses and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       107


      the regulars at the diner.        And if nothing changed, the rest

      of her life would be as it is everyday: rise at three thirty

      nine, open the diner, feed those that come by, then at nine

      that night, go home.       She did afford herself the luxury of

      having Sundays off, but that day was mostly for catching up

      on the housework.

              The cowbell thunked overhead as she opened the glass
      door and brought in the donuts Krispy Kreme had dropped off.

      She flipped on the lights and locked the door behind her.

      The place used to smell like old wood and bacon grease,

      though she didn’t notice it anymore.          She tied her apron and

      began making coffee and putting the donuts under the glass

      domes.    Tiffany, her morning waitress, appeared at

      the door shivering in her light blue uniform.

              “I can’t believe how cold it is out there,” she said

      after closing the door.        “What is it?   Twenty?   Thirty

      degrees?”    She walked behind the counter and tied her apron.

              “Twenty-seven,” Dorthy said.     “It’s supposed to get to

      fifty today.”

              “There’s no way.      It’s too cold out there,” Tiffany
      said and pulled a mug from underneath the counter.         “You

      want coffee?”

              “I’ll have some in two minutes when it is done,” she

      said.    Pouring the coffee before it was ready was one of her

      pet peeves.    “And so will you,” she added.       She never
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         108


      understood why people couldn’t wait for the coffee to

      finish.

              “Yes mam,” Tiffany said.

              “How’d finals go yesterday?”

              Tiffany stood by the coffee watching it drip.        “Fine,”

      she said.    “I messed up one nail, though.      I forgot the nail

      strengthener on the middle finger.        The right middle
      finger.”    Finally, with the pot full, Tiffany poured two

      cups.    “The middle finger.      Can you believe it?    I wonder

      what the hell that means.”         She handed a cup of coffee to

      Dorthy.    “I bet a shrink would have a field day with that.”

              “It was probably just stress, Tiff.     Don’t make too

      much out of it.”      She was always making too much out of

      things.

              “Stress?    I’m not the one that should be stressing.

      Another guy from the IRS came by yesterday--this time with

      some loser taking notes.        I think he was taking inventory.”
              “Damnit!    There not supposed to come by if I’m not

      here.    Just because I’m an old lady, they think they can

      push me around.”

              “Can’t you call someone and complain?’

              “About the IRS?”      Dorthy shook her head.    “No, hon.   No

      one controls the IRS.”        She took her coffee and went into

      the kitchen.       She turned on the griddle and pulled the bacon

      out of the fridge.      “They can do whatever they want.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        109


      General Wright says it’s been going on for so long that

      everyone just thinks they’re within their jurisdiction.”

            “I just don’t think it’s fair,” Tiffany said, laying a

      pile of silverware on the counter.

            “I don’t think ‘fair’ is a term they’re all too

      familiar with, hon.”

            “What are you going to do?”
            “Don’t worry about me.        I’ll be fine.   “I’ve been

      through a lot worse.”         She nodded toward the door.   “The

      breakfast rush is here.        Could you let Earl in?”

            Earl, a tow truck driver who made it a routine to stop

      by every morning for coffee took his usual seat at the

      counter.    Just as Dorthy poured him a cup, her hand started

      shaking, spilling coffee all over Earl’s lap.         It was all

      she could do to set the coffee pot down on the counter.

            Dorthy braced herself against the counter and tried to

      control her breathing as Tiffany and Earl looked on.         She

      had experienced these overwhelming feelings--spells, she

      called them.    No doctor could explain the cause.       No tests

      showed any problems.      The spells sometimes were an
      overpowering feeling of aloneness.        And fairly often, though

      not lately, it was a sense of danger; an adrenaline rush

      from pure life-or-death danger.        And on more than one night,

      she had awaken to the belief she were dead and alone.

      Often, the spells felt like premonitions or strong
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                  110


      intuitions as today’s had been.    She had sensed someone was

      trying to kill her.

            Then slowly, as always, the feeling subsided and she

      put the coffee pot back on the burner and said, “Earl,

      you’re not trying to kill me are you?”

            “No ma’am,” he said.    “But if you keep dumping coffee

      in my lap, I’m going to have to find another diner.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      111




                                     Chapter 9


            The alarm went off at seven.         General Wright was

      spouting off about the evils of the CIA, the FBI, the entire

      body of Congress and the G7.       Kathryn listened as callers

      told of their horror stories of run-ins with the government

      agencies.    She made her way to the shower, then to

      breakfast, wondering how she was going to spend the day in

      this small town.     One day in this place was one too many.

      She was getting antsy.        And suspicious.   She needed to find

      a way out of town.      The hell with the car.     She had to hitch

      a ride with someone--anyone.       The Senator had no idea where

      she was.    She was doing everything according to Jonas’ plan.

      For now she was safe, but the longer she stayed in one

      place, the more vulnerable she became.
            Like the past three mornings, the restaurant was nearly

      empty.   The early sunlight shone on the dust and lingering

      smoke, thickening the air and making the room look bigger

      than it was.    Betty was behind the counter standing over the

      griddle, working on eggs.       The short-haired biker, her
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      112


      savior from last night, sat in the far corner sipping coffee

      and reading the paper.

              She felt guilty about running off last on him night but

      she couldn’t take the chance he wasn’t one of them.      Guilt

      wouldn’t kill her, but he might.      Jonas told her these

      people would shoot on sight, and if he had wanted her dead,

      she would be.     She approached him cautiously, as if he were
      a wild animal.     He had the one thing she needed most: a fast

      way out of town.       Kathryn had worn a pair of tight jeans,

      black boots, and short leather jacket hoping to make herself

      look like a biker chick.

              He stopped reading the paper and stood as she spoke.

              “I just wanted to thank you for last night,” Kathryn

      said.    “It’s Cooper.    Right?”

              “Coop,” he said, folding his paper and setting it

      aside.

              The man looked rugged enough to provide good

      protection, even though he probably wasn’t too bright.       His

      eyes were indigo, his skin olive, and his dark hair was

      cropped close to the scalp.      A broad upturned scar on chin
      smiled back at her and his right ear looked as if it had

      been torn off in some wicked fight to the death.

              “Bitten,” he said.

              “Excuse me?”

              “The ear,” he said.    “It was bitten.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       113


              “I hadn’t noticed,” she said.

              “Liar,” he said, motioning for her to sit.

              “I don’t want to interrupt,” she said.

              “It’s no interruption,” he said.     “I could use some

      conversation.”     His voice was youthful and his articulation

      perfect.    “I was just reading about some nut who’s accusing

      the government of some shady practices.”        He shook his head.
      “That guy on the radio, General something, says he has proof

      of brain washing, kidnapping, and even, can you believe it,

      murder.”

              She signaled to Betty for coffee.     “From what I’ve read

      about it, the Senate is actually investigating some of his

      allegations.”     She didn’t want to seem to quick to agree

      with the General and be labeled a radical.        She scooted her

      chair in.    “I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it’s true.”

              “Me neither, actually,” Coop said.

              When the coffee arrived, Kathryn said, “Tell me, Coop,

      how did you end up in lovely Cherryvale?        A woman, I’ll

      bet.”

              Coop looked back into is coffee and gave a shrug of non
      denial.

              “I thought so,” Kathryn said.      “You look like a guy

      with woman problems.      What happened?    She run off with

      another biker?     Someone from your gang?”

              “No,” he said, offering nothing more.     “What about
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        114


      you?”

              She drew a deep breath, got into character, and

      suddenly changed her tone and emotion as if a director had

      yelled, “Action!”      “My car broke down,” she whined.     “And

      it’s only a matter of time.”       She flashed her green eyes at

      him, knowing he’d melt.

              “A matter of time before what?    It gets it fixed?” he
      guessed.

              “No,” she said dramatically.    “Before...my soon-to-be

      ex-husband finds me.      I left him, and now he’s after me.”

      She faked a sob into her napkin.       “He used to...,” she

      sobbed again.     “He used to...He use to...do bad things to

      me.”

              “What kind of car?”

              That wasn’t in the script.    “An Escort.   Why?”

              “What year?”

              “Ninety four,” she said.    “What difference does that

      make?”

              “Did they say what’s wrong with it?”

              “Something about...CV axles,” she said.
              “When is it going to be ready?”

              “In a few days.   But I can’t wait that long.”      She

      tried a big convincing sob.     “I have to get to Arizona,” she

      said and looked over her wadded napkin, hoping her eyes

      would sway him.     “Before he kills me.”   One more sob ought
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       115


      to do it.

            “Sorry to hear that,” Coop said.

            “Maybe I could get a ride with you?” she said.         Kathryn

      knew bikers were a very proud breed and very protective of

      their women.    He had to say yes.

            Coop drew back.     “Isn’t there someone else you can

      call?”
            “No,” she said and tried another sob.        “There is no one

      else.”

            “What about a bus station.        There’s one in

      Independence.     I can give you a ride to the bus station.”

            Kathryn blotted her summoned tears again.          “I see you

      haven’t ridden a bus lately.        Do you know what kind of

      people ride buses?”      She grabbed his thick forearm.      “I

      promise I won’t be in the way.”

            He rubbed his smiling chin.        “I don’t know,” he said.

      I’m kind of on a mission.        I’m not going from Point A to

      Point B, lady.     I’m taking my time.”     He sipped his coffee.

       “I just don’t think it would be a good idea.”

            “You said you could use the conversation,” she tried.
      “It gets lonely on the road.”

            “Alone doesn’t mean lonely,” he said.        “Besides, that’s

      the way I like it.”

            Betty interrupted, “Here’s your check,” she said and

      tore it from the pad.         “I’ve got to go to the hotel for
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       116


      awhile.    If you need more coffee help yourself.       Just leave

      the money on the table, hon.”

              “Thanks,” Coop said.

              As soon as Betty walked away, Kathryn started again.

      “It’s only to Arizona and you can go whatever way you like,”

      she said.    “I like the back roads.”

              “Look, I’m in no hurry to get anywhere.       I have nowhere
      to be, and no one waiting for me when I show up.”

              “Either do I,” she said, pouring on the enthusiasm.

      “See?    We’ll make a great team.”

              Kathryn could almost see his brain working, he was

      thinking so hard.     And after what looked like careful

      consideration, he said, “Sorry, lady.          Can’t help you.”   He

      fished his wallet from his jeans to pay the tab.         “Good

      luck, though.”     He grabbed his leather jacket and headed for

      the door.

              “Wait,” she called.    “I need you.     You can’t--”

              Coop never turned around.     He just held up his hand as

      if to dismiss her, and the biker walked through the dark

      diner into the morning sun, leaving her alone and lonely.
                               *        *        *

              Twenty minutes after he left the dramatic debutante in

      the diner, Coop strapped his daypack onto the big bike and

      secured Big Bertha.      He hadn’t thought twice about taking

      the woman.    Well, maybe just twice.     It was her eyes that
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    117


      made him second guess himself.     It was one of the most

      attractive features about her.

             There was no way though.    He was on a quest to discover

      America alone.     He had traveled throughout most countries in

      the world, speaking six languages as smoothly as a native.

      But he had never climbed the Rockies, descended into the

      Grand Canyon, or taken the Alaska Highway.      It was as if he
      knew every other culture better than his own.     Even as a

      child he had learned about the ways of lands other than his

      own.   For Europe, Africa, and Asia he had his classes to

      prepare him.     For America, he had only himself, and there

      was no way he was going to lug around a woman on the run

      from her ex while he learned about the country he so long

      had risked his life for.

             But then again, there were her eyes.

             Coop had to make one last call to Dan before he checked

      out of the hotel.     Maybe Dan was going to level with him and

      tell why he calling so much.      Something was troubling Dan,

      and Coop knew it.

             “Look,” Dan began, his voice lowering.    “I don’t want
      to be an alarmist, okay?”

             “What?”

             “It’s just that we’ve got some info that hints that the

      Russians may have found you.”

             “That’s impossible,” Coop said.    “Unless one of our
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         118


      guys turned.”

            “We’re still working on it,” he said.        “We’re trying to

      confirm it.”

            “Who do you think it is?”

            “Dmitri.”

            “From the helicopter?”

            “He escaped from prison a month ago.         We have him on
      video at arriving at Dulles.”

            “Why is he’s after me?”

            “You set him up.”

            “That’s bullshit.       He’s not after me.   He could be

      after anyone.     Hell, he could be after you.”

            “Keep telling yourself that, Coop, and you won’t be

      around to finish that book.       You’ve got to be ready.”

            “How would he know where to find me?”

            “Coop, it’s not like you’re in witness protection.         You

      know that.     Besides,” Dan said, “I think he had some local

      help.”

            “Who?”

            “Not sure yet.     We’re still running that one down.”
            Coop promised to call regularly for updates and hung up

      the phone.

            He fastened the strap to his helmet and pushed the

      electric start.     The 1300 cubic centimeter engine rumbled

      beneath him as he looked through the giant window of the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   119


      diner.    The Junior Leaguer was still sitting there, circling

      her spoon in her coffee cup, staring, looking like a lost

      puppy in the middle of traffic, wondering which way was

      home.

              A blue Ford van pulled in and stopped in front of the

      diner, as Coop slowly pulled away.    He watched as two men in

      suits exited through the rear of the van.
                              *       *        *

              Kathryn kept stirring her coffee trying to decide what

      to do next.    She couldn’t wait on the car, though she had

      already given the man a check for the two-fifty.     She hadn’t

      wanted to give the mechanic a check in the event her

      accounts had been frozen, but he insisted, and Kathryn was

      surprised when Check-Approv-All gave their blessing to her

      transaction.    It meant the people at the clinic still didn’t

      know who she was.     She couldn’t take the bus.   She couldn’t

      wait for the car.     And she couldn’t call Jonas anymore.   He

      had received reports from someone on the inside that his

      phone lines were being monitored, and it would be too easy

      to trace her calls, pinpointing her location.      From here she
      was on her own with only her instincts to help her survive.

              She took the spoon out of the coffee, tinked it twice

      against the ceramic cup and looked out the window in time to

      see two men in suits unsheathe their weapons and open fire

      on the diner.     She pushed over the table and threw herself
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       120


      behind it.    The sound of the guns and broken glass shattered

      her eardrums.     Her heart felt as if it was going to burst

      through her chest, it was suddenly tight and painful.        She

      looked behind her to the counter.        If she could make it to

      there, she could get out the back.

              Then, as suddenly as the shots began, they ended.

      There was the sharp sound of glass fragments falling, one by
      one to the ground.      Then the muffled sound of glass

      crunching under a pair of slowly approaching feet.        The

      crunching grew louder and louder until it was on her.

      Kathryn huddled behind the table, shaking, too afraid to

      look.    She dug through her purse, frantically searching for

      her .38.

              “Surprise,” the man said.      By the trajectory of the

      voice, she knew he was standing over her.

              Kathryn slowly lifted her head to see the man pointing

      the gun at her cheek.         She closed her eyes.

              “Consider yourself maximally demoted,” he said in a low

      tone.

              Kathryn heard the crack of the weapon, then felt the
      table move, then the weight of the man on top of her.        When

      she opened her eyes, she was staring into the man’s dead

      eyes and a small hole in the center of his forehead.        She

      heard glass crunching behind her under quick steps.        The

      crunching passed her, and she peered from behind the table
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      121


      and saw the shadow of a man dart out the door.       Kathryn

      watched as he circled the van.       In the daylight, she could

      see it was Coop.

            Another man, a clean cut white guy, keeping watch,

      shaded his eyes as he tried to peer into the dark diner,

      squinting in the bright sun.       Coop crept low, stepping

      gingerly, his knees bent as he came within arm’s length to
      the dead man’s partner.

            Kathryn knew what would happen next.      Drop the gun.

      Call the police.     Take statements.    Have the guy arrested.

      So she was shocked, and somewhat relieved in a primal way,

      when Coop, having slipped up to the man from behind, put the

      barrel to the base of the skull and squeezed the trigger.

      Kathryn saw the man’s clean-shaven, boyish face explode, his

      body go limp, crumpling in a pile at Coop’s feet.       There was

      a startling thump against her table, and she saw what looked

      like a dead, bloodied rodent, but what she knew was part of

      the man’s skull.     Coop knelt and picked up his shell

      casings.

            Kathryn froze again in fear as Coop ran in.      He stood
      over the dead man’s body and looked down at her, then to the

      hole in floor where the table had been bolted.

            “C’mon,” he said.       “We gotta get out of here.”   He

      grabbed the one of the autographed helmets hanging from the

      ceiling and handed it to her.       “Wear this,” he said.   “It’s
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                           122


      Jan Stenerud’s.”

              “But--” she tried.

              “Let’s move it.”      He offered her a hand up.      “We’ve

      only got a few minutes.”          He led her through the back, to

      the bike, climbed aboard and started it.

              Kathryn slipped the Chiefs helmet over her short,

      blonde hair and buttoned the chin strap.            She threw her leg
      over and reached her arms around his waist, holding tight.

      He mumbled something, but she couldn’t understand what he

      said.

              “What?” she said.

              “You don’t have to--”

              “What?” she said.

              Coop shut off the engine, grabbed her hands and pried

      them apart.    “You don’t have to hold so tight.          I do need to

      breathe.”

              “Sorry,” she said.        “I’ve never ridden on one of these

      before.”

              “Why doesn’t that surprise me?”          Coop said and started

      the engine again and pulled out into the empty road.
                                    *       *     *

              The shoot-out had nothing to do with her husband.          He

      knew that.    The van was a rental.        He had seen the papers on

      the dash.    These men were not Feds.           Though they looked the

      part, they were probably contractors--legalized hit men--
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       123


      hired guns to solve problems.

              Coop knew the route well.     He had hired a couple of

      contractors himself in the past to help with difficult jobs.

       They were an integral part of the nations defense, he was

      told.    An integral part the righteous, pretentious,

      murderous Intelligence Community.        An integral part of the

      reason Coop left the Community.
              He was no saint.      He accepted the killing.   He had

      accepted it a long time ago.        It was the motives that

      finally pushed him out.        For the longest time he believed in

      what he was doing.      Then he found himself on a hillside in

      Colombia staring through the scope at a drug lord’s house,

      waiting for his target to come into view, the overweight,

      balding Senor Menendez, head of the Menendez Cartel.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    124




                                     Chapter 10


            At the end of Calle Bonita, sitting in the van crammed

      with electronics, the young Treasury agent threw off his

      headphones.    “Jesus Christ, it’s been dead all fucking

      morning.    How much longer are we going to have to listen to

      this loser?”

            “Fishback says we don’t have enough for an indictment

      yet,” Hornsby replied.        “We’ve barely got enough for a

      warrant,” the older one said.       ”We’ve only been out here a

      week, Zeke.    Have some patience, rookie.     In a few days

      we’ll have some down time to hit the beach and drink a few

      beers.    I do need to work on my tan,” he said holding out

      his arms, inspecting them.

            Zeke laughed and said, “Now if I had said that to you,
      I would have been brought up on some kind of discrimination

      thing.”    They had been working together for three months.

      It was Zeke’s first assignment, and Fred’s last.       Fred had

      two more months to retirement.       “I don’t see what Fishback

      is so worried about,” Zeke said.       “We’ve got a shitload on
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     125


      this guy.    It’s so fucking obvious he’s scamming his

      investors.    We got enough to nail him right now on a Ponzi,”

      Zeke said.

            “Fishback wants everything by the book.     He doesn’t

      want Velour to walk on some technicality.      The guy’s got so

      much cash hoarded that if he flees to Brazil, there wouldn’t

      be a damn thing we could do about it.      Besides,” Fred added,
      “you’ve got more tapes of his neighbor’s phone calls than

      you do of Velour’s.”

            “I couldn’t help it.     With those damn cordless phones,

      you never know what the hell you’re going to pick up.”

            “If Mr. Sumner ever finds out we taped some of his

      calls, he could sue,” Fred said.

            “How’s he going to know?     I’ve got them all right here

      to destroy,” Zeke said, pointing to a box of tapes marked

      Sumner/File 13.     Zeke lifted the binocular and gazed out the

      window.   “I’ve never seen sand this white before,” he said.

            “This area’s beautiful,” Fred said.     “Mildred and me

      thought about retiring down here.”

            “It wouldn’t be too bad,” Zeke said shaking his head.
      “If you didn’t have to look at that sorry bastard all day.”

      He turned toward Fred and lowered the binocular.      “You know

      who I really feel sorry for,” he said.

            “Who that?” asked Fred.

            “That Sumner dude.      He’s got to watch that fat ass
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       126


      prance around in his Speedo on his deck, as his gold

      medallion beats against his chest.       I thought that medallion

      shit ended with the seventies.”

              “What the hell would you know about the seventies,

      punk?”

              “I’ve seen VH-1,” he said.     “And my parents were into

      that.    They had all that shit.     Bell bottoms, eight-tracks,
      Vegas, Pacers, white polyester suits--my dad even showed me

      his.”

              “The Pacer,” Fred said wistfully.     “You could make a

      five foot sub in the back seat of that car.”

              A sudden movement in the mirror caught Zeke’s eye and

      he felt for his weapon.       A man approached.   “Standby, Fred.

       We got company....my side.”       An older man with gray hair

      knocked on the window.        Zeke rolled down the window, never

      taking his hand off the nine millimeter.       “Can I help you?”

      he said.

              “When the hell are you going to hook up my cable,” the

      man yelled.    “I’ve been down here for two weeks and you

      haven’t even bothered to hook it up yet.       I walk by here
      everyday and I see your truck and I don’t see you doing

      shit.    Doesn’t anybody at Cablemasters work?     They don’t

      treat you like this in Michigan.       That’s where I’m from you

      know.    Have you ever been to Michigan?”

              “No sir.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                          127


            “Here,” he said and reached for his wallet.          “I’ve got

      pictures.”

            “That’s not necessary.”

            “I’m afraid it is,” he said, and before Zeke could

      react, the old man put a hole through the young man’s

      forehead.

            Fred scrambled out the back trying to find cover but as
      he opened the door, was met with a twenty-five caliber

      fitted with a silencer.        The last sound he heard was the

      metal click as the round spun from the barrel and found its

      place between his eyes.

            The old man gave the thumbs up to his partner and

      climbed into the van.         The partner shut the rear doors and

      watched as the Cablemaster van with two dead feds sped off.

                              *           *          *

            The loud doorbell awoke Spot from a sound sleep, and he

      drowsily looked at his watch.           “Shit,” he said and jumped

      out of bed.    It was almost noon and Anna was coming over for

      lunch, and she hated it when he slept until noon.          Usually

      she’s exactly on time.        That’s one of the things he liked--
      from time to time--about her.           She was always on time.   Not

      five minutes early, not five minutes late.          But today she

      was twenty minutes early.

            With sleepy hair and crusty eyes, Spot opened the thick

      wooden door.    The bright light made his eyes water.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       128


              “Did I wake you?”

              The silhouette was too diminutive to be Anna.      “Dr.

      Chang?”

              “It’s Susan, please.     I’ve seen your truck in the

      driveway for the past week, and I knew Coop was out of town.

       So I thought I would stop by.”        She slipped past him into

      the empty, high ceiling room and looked around.        “Maybe we
      should take up a collection to get him some furniture,” she

      said.

              “If Coop wanted it, he’d get it.”

              “It’s a shame.   He must not be able to afford it,” she

      said as if she hadn’t heard Spot.        “It is an expensive

      house.”

              “Oh, he can afford it,” he said, almost flaring his

      chest, ready to stand up for his buddy.

              “Right,” she said patronizingly.

              “There’s not much he can’t afford, Susan.”     So there,
      he wanted to say.     “What do you think, doctors can only make

      the big bucks?”

              “No.   I’m sorry.     I don’t mean to sound that way.   It’s

      just that I never see him work.        What does he do?”

              “He’s kind of retired.     That’s about all I know.”    Spot

      had never told anyone more than that, and he wasn’t about

      to.

              “Have you talked to him lately?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       129


              “Yeah,” he said.      But she wasn’t going to get any

      information from him.

              “Well, tell him he needs to buy some furniture,” she

      said and walked outside to the deck.        Spot followed her out.

      “He’s got such a great view,” she said.        A dolphin jumped

      out of the water just past the sandbar.        Velour exercised on

      his deck.    “Except you can see him.”

              Spot looked at his watch.     He had fifteen minutes to

      get cleaned up before Anna came over.        And if Chang were

      there, Anna would be pissed.        Not only did he sleep until

      noon, but he’s got a strange girl over.        “Is there anything

      you needed?”    Spot asked.

              “Have you seen the cable truck at the end of the

      street?” she asked with an air of intrigue.        “It’s been

      there for over a week now.”

              “I haven’t noticed,” he lied.     He was going to ask Coop

      about it when he called.        There were a few other things

      going on that concerned him.

              “Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I don’t think it’s

      really a cable truck.”

              “I think you’ve been watching too many spy movies,” he

      said and looked at his watch again, hoping she would get the

      hint.

              “I think I’ll call the cable company and find out for

      sure.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     130


            “You do that,” Spot said, and again looked at his

      watch.    This time she noticed.

            “Got to be somewhere?”

            “My fiancé is coming over at noon,” he said and

      shrugged his shoulders as if to apologize.      “I’ve got a lot

      to do.”

            “I’ll let myself out then.”      She turned and walked
      inside.    “Mind if I use your bathroom?”

            “Help yourself,” he said and went to the kitchen to

      start straightening up.       Anna hated a messy house.

            Chang was still in the head when the doorbell rang.

      Spot opened the door, and Anna stood there holding a bottle

      of wine.    “Are you hungry?”    She walked in the house and

      looked around.     It was the first time she had been there.

      “Is he ever going to buy any furniture?” she said.

            “That’s what I asked him,” a woman’s voice called from

      the next room.

            “Who’s she, Spot?”      Anna demanded.

            “That’s Dr. Chang.      She lives across the street.   She

      had to use the bathroom.”
            “Couldn’t hold it until you got home, sweetie?”        Anna

      asked.

            “My systems backed up,” Dr. Chang said.

            “Sounds like a personal problem to me,” Anna said.

            Dr. Chang walked slowly into the room, trying to be
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      131


      sultry, pissing Anna off even more.       “I’ll be going now,”

      she said and walked through the opened door.      “Nice to meet

      you.”

              Spot said goodbye, and Anna did not.

              “I don’t trust her, honey.”   Anna set the wine in the

      fridge.    “I trust her not one bit.”

              “Grab me a beer while you’re in there.”
              “How long have you been awake?” she asked.

              “It’s past noon,” he protested.    She hated when he

      drank after just waking up and always gave him shit about

      it.

              “How about I make you some coffee instead?”

              “A beer will do fine, thanks.”

              She moved to the empty cabinets for something to fix

      for lunch.    “Does he ever eat?   He’s got no food.”

              “I think there’s a can of tuna fish in there.”

              “I don’t see it,” she said and shut the cabinet a

      little too hard.     “All I see is a coffee maker, a chair and

      a TV.    Are you sure someone lives here?”

              Spot looked around the empty room.    “He’s just not into
      material things.     I set the TV up myself,” he said proudly.

              She walked out to the deck and stood against the rail.

       Spot followed and stood behind her, lowering his chin to

      her shoulder.     “What if we go out for lunch,” he said.      “We

      can ride bikes to the boardwalk.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    132


            She turned within the confines of his arms.    “Sounds

      like fun.    We can save the wine for later.   My boss gave me

      the day off.”

            “What a coincidence.    So did mine.”

            They took a couple of old beach cruisers Coop had in

      the garage and as they passed the end of the street, Spot

      noticed the Cablemasters truck was gone.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                  133




                                    Chapter 11


            The high sun warmed Coop inside the jacket, as the cool

      air chilled what little skin was exposed.    It was a fresh,

      alive feeling, and one of the reasons he bought the Harley.

      He stole a glance over his shoulder and saw Kathryn’s tiny

      head beneath the huge helmet, dancing with the rhythm of the

      uneven pavement.     It reminded him of the little dolls with

      the oversized heads bobbing in the back windows of cars,

      making her look more like a Pee Wee Leaguer that a Junior

      Leaguer.    It would’ve been great ride alone, but then there

      wouldn’t have been the pretty debutante snuggled behind him

      hugging his waist so tightly, needing him so much.    And

      every now and then, especially lately, it felt good to be

      needed.
            Medicine Lodge was like any other small town.    A row of

      shops lined the main street, a few cars were parked in the

      angled spaces, and a few citizens ducked in and out of the

      drug store, appliance store, and department store.    Coop

      found a Texaco across the street from a drug store.    He
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      134


      leaned the bike into the grimy, gray gas station and stopped

      next to the pumps.      Without saying a word, Kathryn set her

      helmet on the seat and ran to the bathroom.      Coop filled the

      tank and found a pay phone.      A green Chevy pick-up crept by

      while Coop called home.

            After four rings the answering machine came on.       “Spot,

      it’s Coop.     If you’re there, pick up.”   He waited a moment,
      then hung up the phone.       He tried the bar and was told Spot

      was off today.     A red sedan passed in front of the gas

      station.    He tried his friend, Dan at the FBI.

            “Special Agent Banister,” the man said.      Coop always

      thought it was funny the phony way they answered the phone.

       Banister was a guy Coop had been drunk with, and Coop could

      remember times they were so hammered, Banister couldn’t even

      pronounce his own name.       And now he sounded like some kind

      of government robot.      Which probably wasn’t too far from the

      truth.

            “Special Agent Banister,” Coop said in an equally

      authoritative voice as he rubbed his ring finger.

            “Yes,” Banister said and coughed so hard it hurt Coop’s
      chest.

            “This is Special Agent Green.”

            “Yes?”

            “Do you have your super secret decoder ring on?       I am

      about to send you a top secret communiqué?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         135


            There was a pause.        Then, “Yes.   It is online and

      functioning properly.”

            “Please verify the model, sir.          For proper protocol, I

      need to know if your unit is the Lucky Charms model or the

      Cap’n Crunch version?”

            “The Crunch version.”        His tone and air were like that

      of an expert witness.         “The bureau deleted the Charms model
      from inventory years ago.        Something about a striking

      resemblance between the little fairy and J. Edgar.”

            “I must’ve missed that memo,” Coop said.         “Although now

      that you mentioned it, he does look a little queer.”

            “So does the leprechaun,” Banister said mixing his

      coughing with a laugh.

            “Well, Special Agent Banister, do you think you could

      take time out of your busy schedule of pushing those so-very

      important papers to help me out?”

            “Sure, Coop.    I’m glad you called,” Dan said.       “I’ve

      left several messages at your house.”          He let out a painful

      cough.   “Who, or what, the hell is a Spot?”

            “He’s a friend.     He’s watching my house.      Look, I need
      to find out the status on the Dmitri Chernyshev information?

       Any validity to the intel?”

            “That’s why I was calling.        Could you hold?” He

      sometimes did that when he was about to have a massive cough

      spasm.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         136


             Coop stood in the phone booth, taking in the old town.

       A lady came out of the drug store dragging her teenager by

      the ear as the kid’s friends watched from inside.          The

      sheriff’s car passed by twice, the second time very slowly.

      Coop was in no mood for the obligatory harassment of out of

      town biker by the local law enforcement.

             Banister came back on the line.      “Here we go.    I got
      the file right here.      Looks like he came into Dulles on a

      flight from Brussels two days ago.        Airport security cameras

      picked him up.”     Banister paused.     “When was the last time

      you saw him?”

             “That night in the helicopter just before he jumped

      out.   Why?”

             “He’s changed a lot.      His hair’s completely gray, and

      he’s only forty.”

             “Russian prisons can do that.”

             Banister coughed.      “Are you ready for the good news?

      He’s definitely after you, Coop.        We think his wife may be

      the mole.”

             “No shit?”   Coop said.     “I didn’t know he was married.”
             “Neither did we.       But prison records indicate a woman

      visited him every month.”

             “Got a name?”

             “We’re still trying to confirm it, but we think it’s

      the Chinese doctor that lives across the street.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      137


              “That’s crap,” Coop said.

              “Coop, she was hanging all over him at Spot’s bar,” he

      said.

              Coop didn’t want to believe it.   Just when he thought

      he could stop being cynical and suspicious, shit like this

      happens.    “Are you sure it’s her?”

              “She’s only been there for a few months, Coop.    Plenty
      of time to get to know your routines, habits, anything to

      make you an easy target,” he said.     “But you dropped

      everything and left town.     And they weren’t expecting that.”

              Coop remembered her request for post cards, and it

      began to make sense.      “Run a check on a Dr. Susan Chang.

      She’s a physician at Baptist Hospital.”     He spouted the

      order as if he were now the robot.     It came without thought.

       Then the thoughts came all at once.      She had been to his

      house.    She knew about the trip.   She had even tried to get

      into bed with him.

              “Now, Coop, this is where it turns bad.   Two days ago,

      on the beach, two Treasury agents were capped and their

      bodies dumped in the dunes along the National Seashore.
      They were found this morning by some kid and his dog.”

              “Our guy?”

              “Looks like.”

              “Why Treasury agents?”

              Banister paused, then spoke in a hushed tone.     “The
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     138


      agents were outside your house on a separate job.”

            “My house?    Why mine?”

            “It had nothing to do with you.    They were

      investigating some guy named Velour about a Ponzi scheme.”

            “Dmitri must have thought they were there for him,”

      Coop said.

            “Righto.”
            “Where’s Dmitri now?”

            “We don’t know.     Spot’s was the last place we saw him.

      So keep on your toes and maintain vigilance, my friend.        If

      there’s anything you need, don’t hesitate to call...someone

      else.”

            “Very funny.”

            “Hey, I’m just trying to cheer you up.”

            “Keep trying,”     Coop said, and hung up the phone as

      Banister went into a coughing fit.

            Kathryn was at the bike when Coop returned from the

      restroom.    “Doing okay?” he asked softly.   She looked like

      she’d been sick.

            “I’m all right,” she said.
            “Can I get you anything?”

            “I suddenly have room for lunch.”    She managed a smile.

       “I just keep seeing that guy’s head.”

            He pointed to the drug store across the street.     The

      sign on the window said it had a lunch counter.      “C’mon,” he
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         139


      said.    “These places have the best fries.”

              They sat at in a turquoise booth patched with silver

      duct tape and ordered sandwiches from stained menus.           A

      transient sat at the counter smoking Marlboros and eating

      microwave burritos.      The back door was behind them, the

      kitchen to the right.         Coop sat facing the front door.      The

      teenagers he had seen through the window were hanging around
      the magazine rack, flipping through Popular Science while

      trying to sneak a peek at the Playboys.

              When Kathryn finally spoke it was a whisper.        “What do

      we do now?”

              He had wanted her to mention it first.      “Before we do

      anything, you’re going to level with me,” he said.          “Unless

      your ex-husband is a professional hit man, I’m going to have

      a hard time believing that was a domestic dispute.”          He

      watched her eyes, the black drips on the green iris.

              “They work--worked for him.”

              “What the hell happened that would make him hire two

      guys to kill you?     Fold his underwear wrong?”

              “No,” she said quickly.      “He’s with the mob.”
              The first answer is never the truth.      She had answered

      too fast and given too obvious an answer.        He watched her

      body language as she spoke.        It was a technique he had

      learned from the FBI.         Sure her story could have been

      plausible but her body language told him she was lying.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         140


              “The mob,” he said, nodding.

              “Yes.    The mob.”    She was so unconvincing it was

      laughable.

              “Which family?”

              “The...Bambinos.”

              “The Bambinos?”, he asked.      “I’ve heard of them.

      They’re deadly.”      Coop started to get up.    “I think I’m in
      over my head here, lady.        Good luck,” he said and stood.

              “No.    Wait,” she said and grabbed his arm, and Coop

      returned to his seat.         “You can’t go,” she said.

              Coop settled on to the bench seat, catching his jeans

      on the upturned corner of a piece of tape.        “How long were

      you married?”

              “Ten years,” she said.      Again, it was a little too

      fast.

              “I knew you were trouble the moment I met you,” he

      said.    “I should’ve known with your blonde hair, green eyes,

      and southern drawl, you were the typical mob wife.”          Coop

      wondered if she knew how hard he was trying not to bust out

      laughing.       As the waitress left the food, he leaned back in
      his seat.       He picked up a french-fry and continued.     “You

      know what I think?” he said, pointing the fry at her and

      shaking it.      “I think you’re full of shit.”    He grabbed her

      left hand and held it up.        “You’re not even married.

      Probably never were.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        141


              She tried to jerk away, but he held tight.      “Why?” she

      asked.    “Because I don’t have my ring on?”      She relaxed her

      hand.    “Maybe I took it off, Sherlock.”

              “It’s not the ring.      It’s the ring mark.   Or lack

      thereof,” he said.      “No tan line, no dirt line, no smoothing

      of the skin.     After wearing a ring, no matter how thin the

      band, the skin at your age would take a long time to get
      back to normal.”     The logic sounded good to him.

      Verisimilitude.     It was a practice that came easy to him.

      She jerked again, and he let her have her hand back.         “You

      really want to know what I think?” he said.

              “What,” she said and took a big bite of her sandwich.

              “I think you’ve stumbled onto something, and you’re in

      over your head.     And judging from the two guys back there,

      it looks like you’re way the hell out of your league.”

              “Boy!   You are a genius,” she said.     “Learn to reason

      like that in prison?”         Talking with her mouth full of gooey

      American cheese and white bread mildly diminished her Junior

      League air.

              “You really pissed someone off--I’m thinking someone
      high in the government--and they’re mad enough to maximally

      demote you.”

              She stopped in mid-chew.      “That’s what he said right

      before...”

              “I thought so,” Coop said.      “It’s a euphemism.   But by
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                  142


      the looks of it, either you’re not that important, or they

      couldn’t get anyone else except a couple of FNGs.”

            “FNGs?”

            “Fucking new guys.”

            “How do you know they’re new?” she asked.

            “The idiots wore suits, like they were still collecting

      that twice a month paycheck, trying to make the country safe
      for you and me.”

            “You seem to know a lot about this,” she said as she

      leaned back as if to distance herself as much as possible

      from him.

            He shrugged his shoulders to appear as innocuous as

      possible.     “I’ve seen the X Files,” he said.

            “What do we do now?” she asked.

            “We?”    Coop asked incredulously.   “I don’t know about

      you, but I’m going to finish my delicious grilled cheese

      sandwich and tasty fries and then take to the open road.
      Then I am going to find a huge hole into which I am going to

      hit a dozen golf balls.”

            “What about me,” she said.   “I still--,”

            “Hold on, now,” Coop said.   “I’ve done my job.   I

      played the hero once today.”    He ate another fry.   “My

      obligation’s fulfilled.”

            “That’s it?” she said.   “You’re going to leave me?   In

      this place?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                          143


            “You got it,” Coop said.

            “But--,”

            “Maybe,” Coop began.       “If you tell me what’s going on,

      I’m might let you ride along,” he said.          “And I mean the

      truth this time.”

            “I told you the truth.”

            “Very well,” Coop said and ate another fry.         A smile of
      deep satisfaction stretched across his face.         “I told you

      this place had the best fries.”        He ate another.    “Look, if

      you need some money, I can loan you a little.         Unlike you,”

      he said, pushing the taunting to the limits, “I can use my

      credit card.”     He ate another fry.    “Let me know.”

                              *          *         *

            Kathryn sat silently wondering if she should tell him

      the truth; the truth about the school, the truth about her

      son, the truth about Senator McAlpin.        She looked at her

      plate and then to Coop.       His chin was smiling at her.      No
      matter how serious he was on the inside, his chin always had

      a small smile across it and it wasn’t that altogether

      unattractive.

            She pushed her plate away, took a breath as if she

      jumping into deep water, and summoned the little trust she

      had left for people.        “You’re right.   I’m not married.

      Never have been.     And I did piss some people off,” she said.

      The confession made the weight of her problems lighter, as
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      144


      if someone else was there to help shoulder the load.       She

      couldn’t tell him everything.     Some weight she’d have to

      carry on her own.     “And they were politicians.    One in

      particular.”

             “Who?”

             “A Senator.   Senator McAlpin.”

             “What’d you do?”
             “I broke into a clinic he owns and stole some files.”

             “Because...,” Coop led.

             “Because I think he kidnapped my son.”

             Coop leaned back in his seat.     “Why would a Senator

      kidnap your son?”

             “I can’t tell you,” she said.

             “What kind of files did you take?” he asked.

             “I can’t tell you that either,” she said.     “And you

      wouldn’t believe me if I did tell you.”

             “And you want me to help you kidnap him back?”

             “I don’t have to kidnap him.      I just have to pick him

      up from school,” she said trying to make sound so very

      innocent like any other mother picking up any other child.
      “I just need a ride.      That’s all.”

             “You have proof that this boy is, in fact, your son?”

             She shook her head.    “The only proof I can offer is my

      son.   You’ll know he’s mine when you see him.”

             “Why not go to the police?    They like kidnappings.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      145


            “They wouldn’t believe me,” she said.

            “And I should?”

            “You have to,” she pleaded.       “My son’s life’s at

      stake.”

            Coop stared at his plate.       In the harsh fluorescent

      light reflecting from the shiny floors of the drug store,

      Kathryn noticed the scar on his chin told more about him
      than he could ever verbalize.       The blue eyes were very

      soothing, his face welcoming.       But behind the warm eyes and

      the smiling chin, was a killer.       She had seen it.   She had

      seen him in action.      He stalked his prey and killed with the

      precision and mindlessness of a machine.       But for the first

      time since she began the trip, she felt safe.

            “Look,” she said.       “I can’t tell you everything.    But I

      can tell you I’m not crazy.       My son is in terrible danger,

      and I have to get him back.”

            Coop began to look everywhere but at her.       He sat

      silent for a moment.

            “I’ll make a deal with you,” she said.

            He smiled.      “And you’re in a position to deal?   The way
      I see it,” Coop began.        “You want me to give you a ride to

      Arizona to pick up your son.       And from you, I want....let’s

      see,” he said, rubbing his chin, staring off in the

      distance.    “Nope.    Can’t think of anything I want from you.”

      He wiped the ketchup off his fingers.       He tossed the napkin
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      146


      in his plate and scooted out of the seat.       “All I want is to

      see the Grand Canyon.”

              She grabbed his hand as he stood.    “It’ll take your

      mind off your woman problems.”

              “Who said I wanted to take my mind off her?”

              “C’mon,” she said.    “It’ll make a great story,” she

      said.    “You could put it in your book.”
              “How do I know you’re not going to get me killed?”

              “I swear it’ll be easy,” she said knowing he was coming

      around.    “You don’t even have to go inside.     I just have to

      show them I’m his mother, and they’ll turn him over.”

              “These guys aren’t playing around,” he said.    “What if

      you panic and get me killed?”

              “Panic?” she scoffed.   “Me?   I’ve been through so much

      I know how to remain cool under any kind of pressure.       You

      can count on that.”

              “It did start out a bit exciting,” he said as if he was

      thinking it over.     “It would make a great first chapter.”

              “Is it a deal?” she asked.

              Coop thought for a moment.     “First, I need to know if
      you are in any kind of legal trouble.       Are the cops after

      you?”

              “No.   Not that I know of,” she said.

              “Good.   Because one just walked in.”

              Kathryn turned in her seat to see the teenage cop
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      147


      walking down the aisle.       His holster was unsnapped and his

      hand was hovering above his pistol.      She looked to Coop for

      guidance.

            “It’s okay,” he said.      “Just relax.   If he comes over,

      let me talk to him.”

            Kathryn was trembling.      She could hear the footsteps

      get closer.    She heard them stop just behind her.     Coop’s
      eyes watched the officer.      She tried to watch through the

      reflection in his eyes.

            “It’s okay,” he whispered, without moving his lips.

      “Relax.   Don’t turn around.”

            Kathryn was shaking so badly she had to sit on her

      hands.    She tried her best to appear calm and in control but

      she wanted to scream and run.      And if it weren’t for Cooper,

      she probably would have.

            “Freeze!” the cop yelled.

            Kathryn froze.     She watched Coop.

            “Put your hands on top of your head,” the cop said.

            Kathryn waited for Coop to move first.

            “Do it!” the cop screamed.
            She gave up waiting for Coop.      She threw her hands on

      top of her head, like she had seen the people do on COPS.
      Coop still sat there.

            “All right stand up,” the cop said.

            Kathryn did as she was told and scooted out of the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    148


      bench making sure she had her hands firmly on top of her

      head.    But as Coop sat there with a huge gloating smile, she

      realized she had been set up.

              While standing in the drug store lunch counter with her

      hands on her head waiting to be cuffed and taken away as the

      man she trusted sat there, it all made sense.     He must have

      called the police when she was in the bathroom at the gas
      station.    He offered to buy her lunch, then sat with her

      long enough to get her confession.     How could she have been

      so stupid?    He probably had everything on tape.   The comment

      about the fries was the signal that he had the confession.

      That’s what brought the cops in.

              She saw the exit sign over the back door and planned

      her escape.    She couldn’t even look at Cooper anymore.   He

      was laughing at her.

              How could she have been so naive?   Jonas had told her

      to be careful who she trusted.     And above all, she was never

      to tell anyone about the clinic, and that was the first

      directive she had broken.     As she stood there waiting for

      the cold steel of the handcuffs, her blood and adrenaline
      rushed through her body.      She summoned the courage to run.

              Then just before she bolted, she felt someone tap on

      her shoulder.     “Mam?” the young voice said.

              Kathryn craned her neck to see the officer standing

      behind her.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     149


            “I was talking this guy,” the young cop said, pointing

      to the disheveled man at the counter.      “He stole some bean

      burritos and cigarettes from the Happy Seven Quick Mart.”

            “Allegedly,” the bum shouted through a mouth full of

      burritos.

            Kathryn slowly lowered her hands and turned around to

      face the cop.     “You mean you’re not after me?” she said.
            She must have sounded disappointed because the cop

      said, “If you want I can arrest you.      I don’t know what for

      though.”

            “How about for possession of an overactive imagination

      bordering on paranoia?”       Coop said from the booth and began

      laughing--a laugh too shrilly and too juvenile to belong to

      a man of his build.      “Come on honey, sit down,” he said as

      he wiped the corner of an eye.      “Let this man do his job.”

      Coop stood up and extended his hand to the rookie.      “I have

      to apologize for my fiancé.      She watches a lot of TV.”    Coop

      helped her back into the bench.      “Where’s your medication?”

      he whispered loud enough for the cop to hear, but soft

      enough so that the cop didn’t think he was supposed to.
            “I think it’s in my purse,” Kathryn said, playing

      along, trying to appear more collected than she was.      She

      dug through her purse.

            “Thank you, officer,” Coop said and sat down.      He

      waited for the cop to leave the building before he said
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       150


      anything.     “You’re the coolest,” he said and started

      laughing his high pitched, contagious laugh, one that

      infected Kathryn.     In a moment Kathryn found herself

      laughing like she hadn’t laughed in five years.

                              *          *        *

            The young cop opened the rear door of the car and

      helped the suspect in.        His partner, Filo, sat in the front
      playing with his kid’s Game Boy.

            “The strangest thing happened back there, Filo,” the

      young cop said as he drove the cruiser around the corner to

      the station.

            “What’s that, Earnest?” Filo said, crinkling his face,

      his neck straining, his eyes searching the car.

            “Well, see, as I was collaring the dirtbag...,”

            “No.    I mean what the hell’s that?       What stinks?”

            “I don’t know.     Must be him,” Earnest said pointing to

      the back.     “He’s the one that stole the burritos.”

            Filo grunted, and Earnest continued.        “Anyway, this

      woman, she stands up and put her hands on top of her head,

      like I was cuffing her.       Ever seen that?”
            “No,”

            “Why would she do something like that?”        Earnest said

      and pulled into a parking space in front of their office.

            “Beats me,” Filo said.

            “I know why,” the vagrant said from the back seat.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     151


            “Shut the hell up,” Filo said.

            “If you let me go I’ll tell you.     I know where they

      headed.   I heard ‘em.”

            “The only thing you heard,” Filo said, “was them voices

      in your head telling you to “Steal the burritos, Steal the

      burritos.”

            “Steal it, and you will fart,” the vagrant added.
                              *        *         *

            “God, that was close,” Kathryn said, her pulse slowly

      returning to normal.

            “I wouldn’t worry about the police being after us for

      what happened at the restaurant.”

            “Why not?” she whispered.      “You killed two men.”

            “Once the bodies are identified,” Coop said, “the Feds

      are going to step in and take over the investigation and

      sweep it under the rug.”      Coop took a sip of Diet Coke and

      continued.    “Contractors are about the only people in the

      world you can demote without having to worry about an

      investigation,” he said.      “The government couldn’t give a

      damn about them.     They were hired to do a job and failed.”
      He ate another french-fry.     “Now, we have to assume the

      Senator knows your coming after your son,” Coop said.

            “Right,” she said.

            “And he knows who you are.”

            “Right again.’
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         152


              “As I see it, they’ll be waiting for us coming in or

      heading out from the school.      I don’t think they’ll try

      anything on school grounds,” he said.        “Too many kids could

      get hurt.”

              “You’re right,” she said.

              “I just want to stop at the Grand Canyon when we’re

      finished.”
              “The Grand Canyon?    Why?”

              “Why?   Because I’ve never been there before.”

              “You’ve never been there before?      I thought everybody

      and their brother had been there...twice.”

              “I haven’t,” he said.

              “Well, I don’t see what the big deal is.      You’re not

      missing anything.     It’s just a hole.”     She leaned over her

      soda.    Her eyes focused on him as she sipped.      “Just one big

      hole,” she said.     For a quick moment, she thought she saw

      some kind of return from his eyes.        A small, ever-so-slight

      exchange of warmth or desire.         Perhaps there was a something

      buried deep beneath the leather jacket and the muscled

      torso.
              Coop laid a ten on the table.      “C’mon,” he said.   “I

      want to put some distance between us and Kansas.”

              “I want to pick up a few things first,” she said.

              Kathryn stopped at the book rack and selected a few

      paperbacks, holding them so Coop couldn’t see the titles.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     153


      But Coop knew what they were.       Gabrielle had a weakness for

      them too.

            “Romance novels?”       Coop chided.   “You?”

            “Never trust anyone without a vice,” she replied.

            Then as Kathryn wedged the books into her purse, Coop

      caught a glimpse of the titles: 101 Ways to be a Great Mom,

      and One Parent; Twice the Love.

            After a quick pit stop, they were rumbling past the

      police station as the young cop they had seen earlier was

      getting into his car with his partner.        Kathryn watched

      Coop’s speedometer as he kept it under fifty going through

      the small town.     She couldn’t decide if he was going too

      fast of too slow.     She was in a state of anxiety, caught

      between the excitement of seeing her son for the first time

      and the painful anticipation of what she was going to have

      to do to get him.     Kathryn had lied to her new partner.      She

      knew she wasn’t going to be just like any other mother

      picking up any other kid.       It wasn’t going to be like that

      at all.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     154




                                    Chapter 12


              The gray and white American Exterminators van hummed

      along the straight, smooth pavement of route 169 just north

      of South Coffeyville, Oklahoma, and south of Coffeyville,

      Kansas.    It was a good thing, too, because after driving for

      sixteen hours, Dmitri Chernyshev could use some coffee.

      Though he was drowsy, he was still happy--as happy as he’d

      let himself be.     He checked his rearview mirror.   No one was

      behind him.

              Everything was falling into place.   He had Cooper

      Sumner on the run.      He had a new van with plenty of
      electronics in it, and had even christened it with a new

      name.    And in his pocket, bulging against his lean bottom,

      he had an authentic U.S. Treasury badge to get him in and

      out of wherever he wanted to go.      Everything was perfect.

      Now if he could only find a good radio station.       He played

      with the dial as he steered the van down the empty road to

      Cherryvale and settled on the ramblings of some preacher-

      general.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       155


            He had wanted to listen to the tapes of Cooper Sumner’s

      conversation before dumping the bodies.       But the Amerikans

      had crammed so much electronics into the van that, unless he

      wanted to move the bodies into the front seat while he

      worked, he had to get rid of them first.       So he found a nice

      spot along a deserted stretch of beach with plenty of scrub

      bushes, and tumbled the bodies out of the van and into the
      sand, hiding them in a patch of palmettos.

            Then after stopping at one of the thousand Quick Sign

      shops for a magnetic sign to cover the Cablemasters logo,

      Dmitri found a quiet neighborhood and pulled onto a side

      street and parked.      The van had all new, high tech

      equipment.    Not like the old electronics he had used when he

      was forced to serve in the Russian Army.       After an hour of

      frustration, he figured out how to work the new gear.

            For hours he listened to tapes of Coop’s phone calls.

      Cooper Sumner had a boring life with boring conversations.

      Except for one.     It was a tape of Cooper Sumner telling

      Chang his plans.     He said that he was heading to the Grand

      Canyon and was going write a book.       How sweet.   And Chang
      had confirmed that he was in Cherryvale, Kansas.

            Dmitri looked up from the radio dial just in time to

      read the sign welcoming him to Cherryvale.       The preaching of

      General Wright still resonated through the van, and          Dmitri

      flipped off the radio.        He could only stand so much.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      156


            As he passed the Torch Lounge and Family Restaurant,

      there were two police cars in front.        He noticed the

      shattered glass, drove behind the hotel and parked.          A fed

      in an exterminator’s van would be hard to explain.

            He took one of the navy blue windbreakers with the bold

      yellow US TREASURY on the back, zipped it up and approached

      the local sheriff.      He took one look at the sheriff and knew
      this was going to be fun.

            Dmitri flashed the badge, though the jacket was

      probably enough for the sheriff.        “Any other federal

      officers here, Sheriff?”        His English was impeccable.   What

      little accent he had made him sound like he was from one of

      the ethnic communities in the upper mid west.

               “Why are the feds involved?” the sheriff said

      offering his hand.      He was skinny and his uniform was too

      baggy.   It looked like he had lost a lot of weight in a

      short period of time.         He looked weak.

            “Tell you in a minute.        What happened here?   Any ID on

      the bodies?”

            “None.   The van’s rented to a John Smith.      I think it
      was a hold up.     The restaurant owner is over there,” the

      sheriff said pointing a bony finger to the lady with the red

      bow-tie standing inside the windowless cafe.        “She said she

      didn’t see a thing.”

            What the hell is a “thang?”        Dmitri wanted to ask but
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      157


      decided not to.     He heard the sheriff call to him as he

      walked away, but Dmitri ignored him.

            The woman was crying when he approached.        He hated

      dealing with crying women.        He hated dealing with women

      altogether.    They’re so damn emotional.      He handed the woman

      a napkin from one of the tables.        He saw the nametag.    “It’s

      only glass, Betty,” he said with a warm smile and hugged her
      with one arm.     “You’ll be fine.     I’ll have one of our

      federal insurance adjusters in here in a matter of moments

      as soon as we finish.         In a couple of days it’ll be as good

      as new.”

            She took the napkin and blotted her tears.        “I suppose

      you’re right.     It just looks so terrible.     I’ve had this

      place for thirty years and it’s just sad.        This is my only

      source of income.     What am I going to do?”

            “Don’t worry about that,” he said and stroked her back.

       “You see, Betty, because your fine restaurant was involved

      in a federal incident, you’ll receive loss of income

      compensation.”     He took out his notepad and started writing

      as he looked around the room.        “Looks like a hotel and
      restaurant this size would clear about five, maybe ten grand

      a month.    Right?”

            “No sir.    I’m lucky to get a thousand a month.”

            “Betty,” he said placing a hand on each of her

      shoulders and staring her in her eyes.        “It looks like a
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        158


      hotel and restaurant this size would clear about five, maybe

      ten grand a month.      Right?”

            In more of a question, she replied “Ten?”

            In big letters that she could see, he wrote down

      ‘Betty-10,000 big ones!’      She was his.   “Now, I need to ask

      you some questions.”      He flipped to a new page in the

      notebook.     “Who was in here today?    Was there a tall man.
      Short brown hair.     Mid thirties?”

            “Yes.    He had a funny name.”

            Dmitri showed her a picture and she confirmed it was

      Cooper.    “Was he with anyone?”

            “No.    But I saw him talking to the other guest--the

      woman--last night and then this morning.       But they weren’t

      traveling together.”

            “Do you know who the woman was?”

            “It was...Mrs. Tellman, from Boston.”

            “But they weren’t traveling together?       You sure?”

            “Positive.    He got in last night before dinner.         I was

      kind of skeptical of him being on a motorcycle and all.           You

      know how those bikers are.        Nothing but trouble.”   She
      looked around the room and opened her arms wide.          “See what

      I mean?”     She spun slowly in a tight circle.    “You think he

      did it, don’t you?      I thought he was bad news the minute I

      laid eyes on him.     What did he do that you’re after him?”

            Dmitri almost smiled.       Everyone is so quick to agree
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       159


      with the police.     It’s as if they have no mind of their own.

       He ignored her question, sealing his role of authority.

      “Do you know which way he went?”

              “I think he went that way,” she said pointing over her

      shoulder.    “Toward Independence.”

              Dmitri looked around the restaurant.     “Have you noticed

      anything missing?”
              “No money or anything like that.   But--and this is odd-

      -I’m missing one of my Chiefs helmets; my Jan Stenerud.       I

      had it up there on the wall.      And now it’s gone.”

              “Have you mentioned this to anyone else?”

              “Not yet.”

              “Do me a favor, will you?    Don’t...”   Dmitri stroked

      his chin as he were hopelessly troubled.

              “What’s wrong?” she asked.

              He shook his head.    This was his favorite part.

      “Nothing,” he said.      “I just had a passing idea, but,” he

      held up his hands as if in defense, “I don’t want you to get

      involved.    It’s too much to ask of a citizen.”

              “What’s too much to ask?” she asked.
              Again, he held her shoulders and looked her in the

      eyes.    “You see Betty, I’ve been after this guy for years.

      And every time I get close, the local sheriffs always mess

      it up.”

              “Like The Fugitive?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        160


            “Exactly,” he said without really knowing what the hell

      the hick was talking about.

            “What did he do?”

            Dmitri took a deep breath, inhaling loudly for effect.

      “He killed my wife, Betty.       My wife and my child.”    He wiped

      a pretend tear from his eye with the back of his wrist.           “So

      you see you have to help me.       You have kids of you own, I’m
      sure.”

            “Yes.”

            “Well imagine if they were murdered and you knew who

      did it but the police kept fouling the trail.”

            “But Harvey’s a good cop.       Been Sheriff here for

      fifteen years.”

            “I’m sure he’s a great sheriff.       It’s not him

      personally.”    With his hands still on her shoulders, he

      said, “It’s the whole local versus federal thing.          You

      understand, don’t you?        You’ve seen the movies.”

            “Well, yeah.    I guess.”     She looked at his feet.      “What

      do you need me to do?”

            “I need you to tell the cops you saw nothing.         That you
      had no idea who caused this.       Can you do that for me?       For

      Isaiah, my murdered son?”       The biblical names always worked

      for these Christians.

            “I can do it,” she said proudly as if she were

      volunteering to go on some kind of secret mission.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        161


             “I knew you could,” he said and pulled her in for a

      tight hug.    “God bless you,” he said and left her standing

      there.    He walked back to the American Exterminator van.         He

      smiled.   That was him: The American Exterminator.

             But after what Cooper Sumner did to him, you couldn’t

      blame him.    He spent seven years in a filthy underground

      Minsk prison because of Cooper Sumner.        It had to have been
      him.   That night in the helicopter was the last time he saw

      Cooper Sumner.     He just sat there in that fucking chopper,

      not saying a word.      Somehow, when they were tossed into the

      water they were separated.        Dmitri heard the splash and

      heard Cooper call for him, but that was it.        Dmitri was

      eventually picked up by a fisherman, and because security

      was so tight, was taken to the Libyan authorities who turned

      him over to the Russians.        They immediately identified him

      and imprisoned him that night.        It was three years before he

      got a trial, then a sentence of life.

             After three years in prison he caught wind of other

      inmates planning an escape.        He promised them more wealth

      than they could imagine if they would take him along.        Since
      the others had already known of him from the outside, and

      they knew he could come through on his promises, they let

      him in on the escape.         Dmitri had such a big name, it was

      almost an honor to help him.        He didn’t even have to dig.

      Six months before Dmitri’s escape, his wife had positioned
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     162


      herself close to Sumner, and Coop didn’t suspect a thing.

            Then on the night of the final step of the escape, the

      seven men crawled single file into the cramped tunnel they

      had tirelessly dug spoonful after spoonful, night after

      night, for three years.       Dmitri was at the rear of the line.

       Then with only a hundred yards to crawl to freedom, Dmitri

      dug his makeshift blade from his pocket.      And as he closed
      in on the man in front of him, he raised his hand in the

      tight space and plunged the shank deep into the man’s back.

       The man died silently, and Dmitri crawled over the body to

      the next.

            Number two let out a little sigh as the rusty blade

      settled into his spine.       A quick twist of the blade, and

      Dmitri was ready for number three.

            Unfortunately, Three made a bit more noise, causing the

      remaining two to look behind them.      When they saw Dmitri

      wrestle the blade from Three’s back, One and Two started

      sprint-crawling.     Dmitri relaxed and caught his breath.      One

      and Two weren’t going anywhere.

            So Dmitri crawled over Three and down the tunnel to
      Two, then One.     He thought it was funny the way Two tried to

      climb over One, while One pushed Two away.      It was if they

      thought a few more seconds of life would matter.      No one but

      Dmitri was getting out of that tunnel alive.      And no one was

      going to follow him or jeopardize his freedom.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                  163


                               *       *       *

            He knew he had a few hours before Betty gave in to

      Harvey the sheriff.      He found Independence, then bared right

      on route 160 towards Attica, Pixley, and Medicine Lodge.     It

      was a hunch.    But it was the first road heading west, and,

      if the tapes were right, Cooper Sumner was heading to Grand

      Canyon, there’s a good possibility he’s on that road.
      Dmitri edged the speed odometer to eighty, checking his

      rearview mirror every thirty seconds.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        164




                                      Chapter 13


              “Goddamnit, Beckett,” Senator McAlpin yelled as he set

      his drink down.     “I ask you to take care of this shit and

      you send me two fucking losers,” he said, rocking, using the

      momentum to get his heftiness out of the wing chair.          “They

      had CIA written all over them.        Jesus Christ, one still had

      his last pay stub on him.        Can you believe that?   Can you

      fucking believe that?         Jesus fucking Christ, Beckett,” he

      said.    “It’s like sending your dumbest rat into the maze

      with no goddamn cheese.”        He pointed a fat thumb over

      shoulder and shook his head.        “Call Jim over there and tell

      him what happened.      Tell him the pay stub was a fake.     It

      was a ruse.    The killer planted it on him.      And tell him

      those guys were ours.”
              “Is the Director in tonight?”

              “I’m sure he is, Beckett.”      The Senator walked around

      the borders of the Persian rug, examining it, still trying

      to catch his breath after dressing down Beckett.         “You know

      what makes these damn rugs so expensive, son?”        His voice
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      165


      was calmer now, but he still made Beckett nervous.      Nervous

      enough not remind him that he picked the FNGs.

            “No sir.”

            “Details, Beckett.      That’s what makes these rugs so

      expensive.    The craftsmen work very hard to make sure that

      the details are exact.”       McAlpin dropped to one knee,

      holding on to the edge of the desk for balance, then to the
      other knee.    “The rug is only perfect if the details are

      perfect.    And up until now, we’ve had the perfect operation.

       Know why, Beckett?”

            “Details?” he said.

            “Exactly.    Because we’ve taken painful measures to make

      sure the details are looked after.”      The Senator pointed to

      the rug.    “See this snag?    This little thread is loose.

      What do you think would happen if I were to pull it?” he

      asked, not waiting for an answer.       “This one little thread

      would tear the whole rug apart.      Follow me?”   The Senator

      drew a pocketknife.

            “Yes sir.”

            “Well that’s what this woman is.      She’s a loose thread
      in a fine piece of art.       She can unravel the whole rug,” he

      said, slicing free the errant stitch.

            Beckett shook his head, thinking how good a drink would

      be right now.     “I understand, sir.   I’ll get another guy on

      her tonight.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        166


            “Too late,” McAlpin said trying to stand, struggling

      under his own weight.         Beckett offered a hand up.   “I’ve

      already called someone else.        I managed to get a hold of

      Mallory.”

            It was a name he had heard over and over, but a man he

      had never met.     Mallory was like some legend apparition in

      the Intelligence Community.        As a Roamer, Mallory had worked
      with every agency at one time or another.        Everyone had

      heard of him, but very few had ever seen him.        There had

      been a few more like him in the Community, but Mallory was

      the latest Golden Boy.

            “He should be here any moment.”

            “He’s coming here?        I thought he was out of the

      country.”

            “I called him personally.”

            Mallory never knocked, and Beckett never heard him come

      in.   One second he wasn’t there, the next he was.         He was a

      tall muscular man, with long blonde hair.        His icy gray eyes

      were devoid of any emotions.        Beckett quivered as he

      realized he was standing next to a legend.
            “Mallory,” McAlpin said, “this is Beckett, my

      assistant.”

            Mallory stuck out his large hand, and Beckett

      hesitated.    The man did not look like the type to shake

      hands.   Beckett, feeling somewhat intimidated and being
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     167


      somewhat cautious, timidly offered his hand.     Mallory

      squeezed it gently.

             “Nice to meet you Mr. Beckett.”    His voice was crisp

      and held no regional dialect.

             “My pleasure, Mr. Mallory.”

             Mallory released Beckett’s hand and strode to McAlpin.

       “Senator,” he said, opening his arms for a hug.       “It’s good
      to see you again,” Mallory said, then whispered loud enough

      for Beckett to overhear, “Nice job.      He’s cute.”

             McAlpin broke from Mallory and looked at Beckett.

      “Thanks,” he said with a flare of pride.     “But look at you.

       You look great.”     He held him at arm’s length and admired

      him.   “A perfect specimen of man, both mentally and

      physically.”    The Senator brought him tight for another hug.

             After a round of small talk, Mallory got to the point.

       “You didn’t call me back from Tunisia just to chit-chat,

      Senator.    What can I do for you?”   He said it as if he was
      still trying to repay some debt long ago forgotten by the

      Senator, but still fresh on the mind of Mallory.

             “Have a seat, son,” McAlpin said.    He took the cigar

      box from the mahogany desk and offered a Cuban to Mallory,

      then to Beckett.     Beckett took two, clipped the ends,

      lighted one and handed it to McAlpin.      “A problem has come

      up.    There’s a woman who stands to destroy a large portion

      of the intelligence organizations.    She could, in effect,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       168


      destroy America.”     The Senator enjoyed being dramatic and

      used his talent just enough that only those closest would

      notice his act.     Beckett watched the Senator and wrapped his

      lips around the cigar and sucked, drawing in the smoke.

             “Do you have a picture of her?” Mallory asked.

             The Senator took a large envelope from the desk and

      tossed it to Mallory.         “Until today, we thought she was
      operating alone.     We thought one of the doctors might have

      been in on it with her, but he turned out to be nothing.”

             Mallory took out the black and white and studied it.

      “Looks wealthy.”

             “Yeah, like a school teacher with a rich husband,”

      McAlpin said.

             “Is she?”

             “No,” Beckett said a little too fast, wanting to

      contribute something to the conversation.        “We’ve got her

      phone tapped,” he added.

             “Where is she now?” Mallory asked.

             “The last time we had a fix on her, it was in

      Cherryvale, Kansas,” Beckett said.        “We sent in two men for
      her.   One took it from a distance through the forehead.

      Perfectly centered, I might add.        The other, point blank,

      base of the skull.      They found the top of his head thirty

      feet away.”

             The Senator took a puff from the cigar, stared at the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     169


      glowing end, and said wistfully, “Almost looked like one of

      our own did it.”

             “She’s smart,” Beckett added.   “She’s not using credit

      cards, or ATMs.     And it looks like she bought a car just for

      the job.”

             “How did you find her?” Mallory asked.

             “We put a Treasury Trace on her checking account.    A
      check approval company reported one written for car

      repairs,” Beckett said.

             “And you think she might be with someone else?”

             “Yes,” said Beckett.

             “Beckett,” Mallory said with authority, “find out what

      other transactions were completed with credit cards that

      day.   Then, identify those which are not registered within a

      fifty mile radius and start there.     Same with ATMs.   Also,

      check hotel and pay phone records for any long distance

      calls.   I.D. the numbers called, then find out who lives

      there.   Call the local post office and hold the mail for my

      inspection.    I want to look for cards, bills, anything going

      out of town from someone from out of town.      Got that,
      Beckett?”

             “Sure,” Beckett said.   “But it may take some time.”

             “I know.   It’ll give me a chance to get out there.”

             “I love this man,” the Senator said enthusiastically to
      Beckett.    “That’s why he’s the best.”   The Senator tried to
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        170


      stand from his chair and said, “I’ll have a jet ready for

      you first thing in the morning.”

              “Don’t get up, Senator,” Mallory said, rising at the

      same time as Beckett.         “I’ll contact you with good the

      news.”

              The Senator took Mallory’s hand, holding tight with

      both hands and said, “Be careful, son.        I want you back
      alive.”

              “Count on it,” Mallory said.

              Beckett opened the door and wished Mallory the best.

      With the door closed, the two men alone, Beckett took his

      place behind the Senator’s chair and gently massaged

      McAlpin’s thick shoulders.        “Don’t worry.   He’ll find her,”

      he said soothingly.      “He seems very capable.”

              “I’m not worried about him,” the Senator said.      “I’m

      worried about the hearings.        That punk Senator from Florida

      is breathing down my neck.”

              “Why not just eliminate the problem?”

              “The Senator?”   McAlpin said as if taken aback.

              “Why not.   It’s not like we haven’t done it before.”
              “You really think I should?” the Senator asked.

              “Why not,” Beckett said, rubbing McAlpin’s rubbery

      neck.    “How’s that feel?”

              “Great,” the Senator moaned.

              “I’ve got some good news.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    171


            “Yes,” McAlpin said in a sleepy voice.

            “We should have the information from the safe deposit

      boxes soon.    I looks like she might have opened one.   First

      Bank of Nashville’s security camera might have spotted her.”

            “Really?” the Senator asked excitedly, trying to turn

      his heavy body in the small chair.    “Daddy would love that.”

            “I know you would,” Beckett said.    “Don’t get your
      hopes up though.     The woman in the picture is undisguised,

      actually smiling for the camera.”

            “When will Daddy know?”

            “Hopefully tomorrow.”    Beckett kissed the top of the

      Senator’s head, stepped from behind the chair and took the

      Senators glass.     “How about another drink?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         172




                                    Chapter 14


              Kathryn was too scared to sleep and found herself

      listening outside Coop’s motel door, holding two bottles of

      beer.    She didn’t want to wake him, but she didn’t want to

      be alone either.     She promised herself she’d only knock

      lightly.    If he was awake, he would hear it.       If he wasn’t

      awake, she’d tough it out alone.

              She waited for an answer.    When it didn’t come, she

      tried again, only harder.      She had probably just knocked too

      lightly the first time.       She whispered his name, but still

      no answer.

              Kathryn looked down the cement sidewalk toward her

      empty room, then to the four cars and one motorcycle in the

      large gravel lot, and an overwhelming feeling of aloneness
      fell over her like a thick blanket of fog.          She turned to

      the door and began pounding.      “Coop?” she yelled, hoping she

      didn’t sound as afraid as she was.         “Coop?   You awake?”   She

      banged harder on the old wooden door.        “Coop!” she screamed,

      just as the door opened.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   173


            “What?” he said impatiently, wearing only a pair of

      boxers, wiping the sleep from his eyes.    In this pose, it

      was easy to imagine him as a child.

            “I thought you might like a beer,” she said, and held

      out the bottle.     “And some conversation,” she added.

            Coop took the beer, said, “You’re right about one

      thing,” and closed the door, shutting her out.
            Kathryn banged on the door again.    “Coop!   Let me in!”

            Coop opened the door, and let her pass.    “Didn’t we

      talk at dinner?” he said.

            She brushed past him and sat on the corner of the bed.

      “Did I wake you?” she asked innocently.    For the first time,

      she noticed the definition in his body.    She had never

      realized how the deltoid flexes when a man drinks a beer.

      He was in perfect shape, and for a moment she wondered what

      it would be like to be with him.    It had been over two years

      since she had been intimate with a man.    So long, she

      thought, she doubted she could remember how.    “To a safe

      journey,” she said, and raised her beer to meet Coop’s.

            “Cheers,” he said, and moved closer.    He was standing
      over her, looking down on her, and she trembled at his

      closeness.    His eyes were intense as he leaned toward her.

      Kathryn sat still waiting to react, not sure she could

      resist.   Her eyes lowered to his tight waist, his blue

      boxers.   “Coop?” she said sweetly, as he moved against her,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    174


      his big hands running down her soft back.     Her body

      shuddered, and she wondered if he could feel it too.       They

      had formed a bond, an alliance, but she wasn’t sure if they

      relationship should move to this level.     Kathryn had to

      decide whether to give herself to the man that saved her

      life or try to stay focused on getting her son back.

      Intimacy now would seem premature, but somehow it also
      seemed perfect.     She felt his hands brush down her back.    He

      must have felt her shudder that time.     She wasn’t going to

      resist.   His hands moved to the smooth curves of the small

      of her back, then further.    Wondering if he was waiting for

      a sign from her, she said,    “Coop?   It’s okay,” she said.

            “It’s not okay,” he said.    “You’re on my jeans.”     She

      felt a tug underneath her, snapping her back into reality.

      “Could you move?” he asked.

            She inched over.

            “Thanks,” he said and slid on his jeans and green tee

      shirt.    “What’s on your mind?”

            “Hmm?”

            “What do you want to talk about?” he said, and took a
      seat in the straight chair at the desk.

            “I don’t know?” she said.    She caught a puzzled look

      from him, and watched as he opened the door.

            “Looks scary out there,” he said.    “Very empty.”

            “Really?” she said casually.     “I hadn’t noticed.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     175


            He shut the door and sat on the bed next to her.

      “Could you do me a favor?” he said and grabbed her hand.

      “Would you mind staying in here for the night?      I’ll sleep

      on the floor.     I’d just feel safer.”

            “Do you think I should?” she said, not wanting to sound

      too eager.

            Coop smiled.    “I think it would be a good idea.   I have
      to take care of something first,” he said and grabbed the

      tape recorder from the nightstand.     “Give me your key.”

            She tossed him the key, and in two minutes he was back.

      “Everything okay?” she asked.

            “Just a little subterfuge,” he said, and made a pallet

      from the extra blankets and sheets, positioning it between

      her and the door.     He sat on the hard floor, leaning against

      the big, comfortable, king size bed and sipped his beer.

            Kathryn snuggled into the bed.      She could smell his

      cologne.    For fifteen minutes they sipped beer and talked

      about nothing.     Kathryn mostly talked and Coop sometimes

      listened.

            Twenty minutes after the lights were out, she said,
      “You seemed to know what you were doing back there.”      She

      let it hang in the air, waiting for a response, hoping to

      finesse a little information from him.      She hoped the dark

      intimacy of the hotel room would act as a confessional where

      no question could escape an honest answer.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                            176


              “I’ve had some experience,” he said.       By his yawn in

      his voice, she knew she had wakened him again.

              She held her hand out at arm’s length to see if she

      could see it.     She couldn’t.    “Ever married?”

              “Almost,” he said.

              “What happened?”

              “Turned out we had one too many things in common,” he
      said.

              “Is that the woman you’re running away from?          What’s

      her name?”

              “Could we talk about something else please?” he said.

      “How about your son?        What’s his name?”

              Kathryn never had a chance to name her child before he

      was taken from her, but according to the files, the boy’s

      name was now Zachary Montoya.          “Zachary,” she said.    “I

      can’t wait to see him.”

              “You’ll see him soon,” Coop said and reached up and

      patted her foot.     The touch made her feel safe.

              Kathryn waited for him to continue, but he didn’t.          It

      was obvious he didn’t want to talk anymore, but she still
      wasn’t quite ready to sleep.

                              *          *          *

              Coop lay on top of the thick, musty-smelling blanket.

      The small pillow barely kept his head off the carpeted

      cement floor.     He tried not to think about orphaning the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   177


      child, bringing another into his world of pain.     But lying

      in bed at night, when it’s the quietest time of the day,

      thoughts that kept him awake streamed through his head like

      a train through a tunnel.     He hadn’t thought about

      Menendez’s death this much for a couple of months, and now,

      for a reasons that escaped him, the chatty little prom queen

      was making him recall every detail.
              It had happened during the Christmas holidays.   After

      spending two bitter cold years in Yugoslavia, he volunteered

      for a milk run in Central America--maximally demote Senor

      Menendez, the leader of the Menendez Cartel and former agent

      of the CIA.    Menendez deserved the demotion.   He bit the

      hand that fed him.      He had used the CIA, and the information

      he gathered to rise to top of the cartel.     Then when he was

      eventually arrested, he threatened to expose the CIA’s

      activities in Central America.     Activities that included the

      manufacturing of cocaine that could kill a person in one

      dose.    A substance necessary to “change the public’s mind,”

      as the campaign promised.     The feds released him, and before

      he could walk out the door, had put a contract out on him.
              It took five days of crawling on his belly, dressed in

      a ghilley suit to get close enough for the shot and still

      have a head start for the egress.     Finally, he had the shot

      lined up--a three second window of opportunity to nail

      Menendez between the house and his limo.     He watched for
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     178


      Menendez through the cross-hairs of the Leupold scope, like

      watching a movie with the sound off.

              Menendez walked out of the house with his back to Coop

      as if he were talking to someone still inside.     He was close

      to the door of the mansion, while guards with earpieces

      circled wide around him.      A limo was being brought around

      from the other side of the house.
              From the front door, Menendez’s wife rushed outside and

      began to argue with her husband.     Menendez slapped her, then

      followed with a solid right across the chin, and she

      collapsed.    El Senor turned, facing Coop, and began for the

      car.    Menendez had made it easy for Coop by wearing a white

      golf shirt with a logo on the left side just above the

      heart.    With the cross-hairs fixed just left of the logo,

      Coop added pressure to the trigger.

              Suddenly, a little boy entered the circular view of the

      scope and started punching and slapping at his father’s

      legs.    Coop paused.    At this distance, if the scope had been

      knocked out of alignment just a millionth of a centimeter,

      he could hit the boy.
              Menendez stood still for a moment, raised his hands in

      the air as if yelling to God, while his son beat on him.

      This was the shot Coop had waited for.     He had to take it.

      Menendez would be behind the car in three seconds.     If

      didn’t tag Menendez now, the mission was a failure.     Coop
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    179


      leveled the sights on the man’s heart and fired, then bolted

      another round into the chamber.    Coop anxiously watched

      through the scope, waiting to see the results.

            The little boy suddenly stopped beating his father’s

      leg and fell to the ground.    Menendez dropped to the ground

      next to the car, covering his son, and Coop readied for a

      second shot.
            Coop watched as the boy squeezed out from under his

      father and ran to his mother’s side.    Menendez awkwardly

      picked himself from the ground and grabbed a weapon from the

      nearest guard, opening fire on the guards, killing them all

      before they could respond.    In the shower of bullets, one

      found his wife.     He turned and faced Coop’s direction and

      began firing wildly.

            Through the scope Coop noticed a dark stain just above

      the logo on his golf shirt.    Menendez tried to cover it with

      his left hand as he fired the automatic weapon with his

      right.

            With the security and spotters dead, Coop fired a

      second round.     The impact knocked Menendez to his knees,
      then to his face.     Coop waited and watched for anyone else

      to show.    A movement near the house caught his eye and the

      boy appeared again in the scope’s view.    Coop watched as the

      boy neared his father, then bent over the way kids do when

      they’re about to do a headstand.    The child, now face to
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       180


      upside down face with his father, stared for a moment, then

      knelt at his father’s head.       He gently pushed the man, as if

      trying to wake him.      He pushed again and nothing happened.

            The boy stood up and moved to the man’s mid-section and

      pushed on his side.      Again, nothing.    The boy tried again

      frantically.     When he couldn’t wake his father, he sat near

      the man’s head, facing Coop.       Coop watched as the boy
      screamed, tears running down his innocent face, no doubt

      believing he was the one that had killed his father and his

      mother.   But it was Coop the orphan, the unwanted child of

      some casual union, the byproduct of cold lovers not wanting

      to deal with their responsibility, who orphaned that little

      boy in the mountains of Colombia, dragging him into a

      painful, parent-less world.

                              *          *         *

            “Cooper?    Cooper?     Hello?   Are you in there?“ she

      called.

            He came back to the smelly blanket and the loquacious

      debutante.    “I’m here,” he said, wishing he weren’t.

            “Did you doze off?”
            “Yeah.”    He had never told anyone about the job in

      Central America and the guilt he suffered.        Once, during the

      quiet openness after making love, he almost told Gabrielle.

            “I said, if you could live anywhere in the world, where

      would it be?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       181


            “Anywhere?”

            “Anywhere,” she said.

            “If I could live anywhere, I’d live right where I

      live.”

            “Not me,” Kathryn said firmly, then paused, hoping for

      interaction.    “Would you like to know where?”

            “I’d love to,” he said, wondering if every night was
      going to be like this.

            “I’d move to Belize.       They have an barrier island right

      off the coast.”

            “That’s a good place for one,” he said.

            “Did you know the national language there is English?”

            “Sounds nice,” Coop said.       “Sounds very nice.”   The

      bright lights of a vehicle opened Coop’s eyes.       They were

      too close, too bright.        He sprung from his pallet, grabbed

      the Browning and chambered a round.       He stood to one side of

      the window and peeked out.       After a moment of watching, he

      flipped the safety and stretched out on the floor.

            “What was it?” she asked.

            “Nothing,” he said and lay back down.       “Just the
      exterminator.”

            “An exterminator?       At this hour?”

            “Exterminators sleep too, you know.”       He fluffed his

      little pillow and rested his head.

            Coop was almost asleep when she continued.       “What was
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        182


      your mother like?”

            Every day of his boyhood life Coop had wondered about

      his parents.    He was told repeatedly his father was an

      Admiral who, as an Ensign, had won the Medal of Honor, and

      his mother was a was an operative for the CIA.         They had a

      short affair, she got pregnant, and she didn’t want the

      child.   End of story.        “I never knew my parents,” he said.
      “Why?”

            “Lately I’ve been noticing more and more mothers with

      their kids,” she said.        “They all seem so happy.   So loved.

       I just don’t know how I’m going to do it.”        She sat up in

      the bed.    “All this goddamn happy love!      If I try to be that

      happy, it’ll seem so fake.”

            “Maybe when you see him, your motherly instincts will

      take over,” Coop said.

            “Instincts?    I have no motherly instincts,” she said.

            “Sure you do,” he said.        “It’s just like back at the

      diner when you knocked over that table.”

            “So I knocked over the table.        So what.”

            “That table was screwed down in to the floor with three
      in lag bolts,” he said.        “Your survival instincts gave you

      the power to knock over that table.        It’s like the story of

      the mother who rolls her car, trapping her kids inside, then

      manages to lift the car herself to save her children.        Her

      instincts just take over.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      183


              “Then what the hell happened to my instincts when he

      put the gun to my head?”

              “They’ll only get you so far,” Coop said.    “You also

      need some thoughtful effort.”

              “So my instincts would’ve let me live for one more

      minute.” she said.      “Big deal.”

              “Well lucky for you I had to pee,” he said.    “And
      there’s the third factor: Luck.       Luck, instincts, and

      thoughtful effort.      That’s what’s going to keep you alive,”

      he said.

              Kathryn seemed to be pondering the brilliant advice he

      offered.    It was advice hard won, having picked it up over

      the years while surviving assassins, skirmishes, and wars in

      some of the most inhospitable terrain on the face of the

      earth.    She was truly giving his words the weight they

      deserved.    It was refreshing to see someone actually

      appreciate the benefits of his experience and knowledge.

      These were words that would stay with her forever.

              “Don’t forget shopping,” she added with a giggle.

      “Luck, instincts, thoughtful effort...and shopping,” she
      said.

              It took a second for Coop to realize she was making fun

      of him.    “That’s right,” he said, “Luck, instincts,

      thoughtful effort, shopping, and...beer,” Coop added.

              “Luck, instincts, thoughtful effort, shopping, beer,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     184


      and...beaches.”

              “Luck, instincts, thoughtful effort, shopping, beer,

      beaches, and...barbecue,” he said.

              “Luck, instincts, thoughtful effort, shopping, beer,

      beaches, barbecue, and...what about love?”

              Coop paused, then said, “What’s love got do...got to do

      with it?”
              She immediately added, “What’s love but a second hand

      emotion.”

              “What’s love got to do...got to do with it?” asked

      Coop.

              “Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?” replied

      Kathryn.

              “Good night, Kathryn,” he said.

              “Good night, Cooper,” she replied.

              In ten minutes she had fallen into a convulsive sleep,

      shedding the covers to the floor.        Coop found the spread and

      draped it around him.         It was going to be a cold night, and

      if she didn’t want the blanket, there was no point in

      letting it go to waste.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        185




                                      Chapter 15


            Lazy Day’s mix of Reggae and N’awlin’s music filled

      Spot’s Exotic Animals and Gulf Side Watering Hole as the

      spring breakers danced to a full moon suspended low over the

      water.   The temperature outside was in the high fifties and

      some of the crowd was wearing shorts.          Spot was working the

      bar alone.    Anna had class earlier, and had a final in the

      morning so she wasn’t scheduled to work.          The waitresses

      were pouring their own beers which threw Spot’s accounting

      system way out of whack.

            “The college kids nowadays just don’t drink like they

      used to,” Spot said to no one in particular as he mixed a

      bushwhacker.    He remembered a time when he could put a whole

      six pack in a beer bong and inhale the whole seventy-two
      ounces in nothing flat.        He’d like to see these little

      college pukes do that today.

            Spot set the frozen drink on the bar.          Susan Chang was

      on the other side.      “That for me?”       Chang asked.

            “No,” Spot said.        “Did you order one?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       186


              “No,” she said, taking the drink.      She put her lips on

      the straw, keeping her eyes on Spot.       “But it looks good, so

      I’ll take it.”       She took a ten from her wadded clump of

      bills and put it on the bar.       “Keep it,” she said.

              Spot made a fresh drink and made sure it got to the

      right owner.

              “Where’s your wife?”     Chang said.
              “She’s not my wife,” Spot replied.       “She’s got

      classes.”

              “Too cute.    She’s how old?   Thirty?   And still in

      school?”

              “Twenty seven.    And I think it’s great.”

              “But what kind of career can you start when your that

      old?”

              “She’s not even thirty, Susan.     And she’s not doing it

      for a career.     She’s doing it for herself.”

              “That is cute.”
              “Look at you.    You’re what--thirty-two?    And you’ve

      just started your career.”

              “Bullshit,” she protested.     “I’ve been in school for

      the past twelve years.        School’s been my career so far.     But

      let’s move on.       I’m getting bored talking about her.     Let’s

      talk about you.      How long have you known Coop?”

              “Since the Academy,” he said, feeling like something

      wasn’t quite right.       He just couldn’t put his finger on it.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      187


              “I guess you two are best friends, right?”

              “Yeah.   I guess,” he said, leaving for a moment to pour

      a beer for a customer.

              When he returned, she had finished her drink.

      “Another?” he offered.

              “Gimme a shooter,” she said, and pushed the empty

      plastic cup to him.      “Recommend something.”
              “What do you feel like?”

              “Something spicy, but still a little sweet,” Chang

      said.

              “I know just the thing,” Spot said and bent over the

      cooler.

              “So do I,” Chang said.

              He took the chilled bottle of Goldschlager and showed

      it to Chang.     “This stuff will knock you on your ass.”

              “That’s just what the doctor ordered,” she said.

              “It’s about time someone around here gets a little

      crazy,” Spot said, looking around at the well behaved crowd.

       He was just about to pour Chang’s drink when she covered

      the cup with her small hand.
              “You don’t think I’m drinking alone, do you?” she said.

              Spot shrugged his shoulders in surrender.    “Doctor’s

      orders,” he said and pulled a cup from underneath the bar

      and poured them both a hefty shot.

              “To life and love,” she said.   “And everything that
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        188


      happens in the name of.”

              “Whatever that means,” Spot said.   “Cheers.”   The

      cinnamon liquor tasted like the fireball’s he used to buy as

      a kid at the Seven Eleven.

              She slammed her cup on the bar.    “Let’s go again.”

              Spot filled the cups.   “To the Marine Corp,” Spot said.

       “Uurrah.    Semper Fi.”
              “Semper Fi,” Chang said, and threw her head back with

      the drink.    She slammed the cup again.    “Another,” she

      demanded.

              “Another,” said Spot.   He was impressed with her

      stamina.    Anna always gave him shit about drinking like

      that.    It was refreshing to meet a woman who knew how to

      socialize.    “Now that’s drinking,” he said.

              “Hypercocktaileous Amongus,” Susan said.

              “What the hell’s that?”    Spot said.

              “The medical term for having a lot to drink,” she said

      and laughed.

              “To Hyper...cocktail...”

              “Cocktaileous Amongus,” she said, and clinked her cup.
       He downed his faster this time and slammed his cup on the

      bar first.    Hers followed quickly.    “You won that one,” she

      said.    “One more.”

              Spot filled the cups.   “Your turn to make the toast,”

      he said.    Spot stared at her over the top of the cup.       It
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       189


      might have been the alcohol, but he felt like she was

      looking at him in a way like she wanted him.        It was always

      the case; the more he drank, the better looking he got.        Or

      something like that.

              “To new friends,” Susan said.

              It was the alcohol.   He was just getting a little

      buzzed and always read too much into things, especially
      things like looks from other women.      “To new friends,” he

      said and clicked her cup.

              “To good looking, well built new friends,” she added.

              It was kind of hard for him not to read something into

      that.    His cup was the first back to the bar.      He put the

      cap on the bottle.

              “C’mon,” she said.    “Just one more.    Doctor’s orders.”

              “Doctor’s orders,” he said and opened the bottle.

      “What shall we drink to this time?”

              “You tell me,” Chang said.

              Spot looked at her.   She wasn’t bad looking.     She was

      maybe even a little prettier than Anna.         He had never had an

      Asian woman.    He had heard stories from other aviators
      aboard the ships, but had never experienced one for himself.

       “How about,” he began without thinking,        “To fucking

      gorgeous women.”     He tried to catch himself before the words

      got out, but it was too late.      “Shit...I mean fucking

      gorgeous...not like making love to gorgeous women...although
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       190


      I’d drink to that....but you know...to really gorgeous

      women.”    Geez, he felt like an idiot.     He raised his glass,

      feeling the heat of embarrassment spread throughout his

      face.

              But like a good sport, Susan raised her glass.     “To

      fucking gorgeous women,” she said, smiling.       Grinning would

      be more like it.
              Spot was still red when he slammed the cup down, barely

      beating Susan.     “Another?” he asked.

              She pushed her glass to him for a refill.     But he could

      have sworn he heard her say, “I think you’ve had enough.”

              “What?” he said and looked up from the cups.     Anna was

      standing behind Susan.        Susan’s eyes were as wide as beer

      pitchers.

              “I said I think you’ve had enough to drink,” Anna said,

      squeezing next to Susan without acknowledging her.       She

      placed a paper bag on the counter.       “I brought you something

      to eat.    I thought you might get tired of the bar food.”

              Spot put away the Goldschlager, moving slowly, thinking

      that any sudden moves might upset Anna.       “Thanks, Honey.”
              Susan pushed herself away from the bar.     “I’d better be

      going,” she said.     “Good night, Anna.”

              “See ya,” Spot said.

              Anna ignored Susan.     “I got my big final tomorrow.     I

      just wanted to stop by and give you this,” she said and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                          191


      pushed the bag to him.        “It’s pork--the other white meat.       I

      roasted it for you.”        She opened the bag.    “Smell it,” she

      said, using her hand to waft the aroma to him.          “I didn’t

      even use an old Hungarian recipe,” she said proudly.          “It’s

      all American.”

            Spot inhaled.     “Honey, it smells great!       I’m starving.”

            “Well, I’d better get back to studying.          I’ll call you
      after the test tomorrow.”        She leaned over for a kiss.

      “Wish luck to me.”

            “Good luck to you,” he said and kissed her.          She was

      the best thing that ever happened to him and he hated

      himself for acting like this.           He didn’t know why Anna put

      up with so much of his shit.        If he kept it up, one of these

      days she going to blow.        He set the pork roast under the

      counter.    He would leave early tonight and let one of the

      girls lock up.     It was a cloudless night and he wanted to

      check out the stars through Coop’s telescope.          He would grab

      a six-pack from the bar, chow on pork roast, and watch the

      stars.

                              *           *          *
            Spot pulled the Hummer into the white, pristine garage.

       He loved driving it.         He felt like nothing could get in his

      way that he couldn’t run over--a far cry from his old Chevy

      pick-up.    Coop had put a CD changer, a subwoofer, and about

      ten Infinity speakers throughout the vehicle.          The sound was
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   192


      incredible, and Spot sat in the custom made Ricaro leather

      seats until Buffett had finished his song.     He had taken the

      long way home from the bar--past the house, down the beach

      road to Navarre and back.     There were so many stars, he

      couldn’t resist.

              He juggled the roast, the four beers left from the six-

      pack and the day’s mail as he tried to punch the code into
      the alarm keypad.     Halfway through he stopped.   “Shit,” he

      said aloud.    He could have sworn he remembered to set it.

      He unlocked the door and climbed the steps.     The house was

      dark except for the stunningly bright light from the full

      moon.    The huge windows let in so much light that only the

      nooks and the corners that caught the shadows were dark.      As

      he went for the light, a figure dashed in front of him.

              He tried for the light, and in his hurry, dropped the

      bottles.    They thunked against hardwood floor, distracting

      him just enough for the burglar slip out the sliding glass

      door and over the deck rail.    He dropped the roast and

      followed hoping to find prints in the sand, but the tide was

      low and prints were everywhere.    Standing at the water’s
      edge, he looked up and down the beach for any sign.

      Nothing.    Still a little nervous, he plodded back to the

      house.

              Inside, nothing was out of place.   It wasn’t like Coop

      had anything worth stealing.    The telescope was still there
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       193


      by the door.    The chair was still in its spot, and the TV

      was still hooked up.      He checked Coop’s office.    With the

      door secure, there was no need to enter.      It was Coop’s

      sacred room and even Spot was not allowed in.      He checked

      the rest of the rooms--all in order.      All empty.   Completely

      empty.

            With nothing stolen and no description, he didn’t call
      the police.    If, whoever it was after something and didn’t

      find it, he’d either come back or he wouldn’t.        If he does,

      Spot would be ready for him.

            He fixed a plate of Anna’s roast, and remembering the

      cat, added a little extra in case she showed up.       He set the

      food, along with the laptop on the other chaise lounge and

      called for the cat.      No response.   He made himself

      comfortable on the one of the deck chairs and punched in the

      number for the Ophiuchus, the constellation named after

      Asclepius, the god of medicine, and watched in awe as the

      telescope moved, locating the constellation.      It held over

      60,000 positions in its computer memory and Spot hoped to

      get through at least twelve tonight.      If he found one he
      liked he would download it into Coop’s laptop.        Coop had

      paid over $4000 for the telescope, and this was the first

      clear night Spot had had since watching the house.        He

      sliced the roast, cracked open a beer and wished Anna was

      with him.    But then if she was, she probably wouldn’t let
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      194


      him finish his six-pack.

              Spot squinted into the telescope for an hour,

      downloading Ophiuchus, Fornax, and Gemini, and a few others

      until suddenly, the telescope darkened.       When he looked up,

      Dr. Chang was standing in front of the lens.       She was

      holding her sandals in one hand and what looked like Cape

      Cod in the other.      “I thought you might be out here,” Susan
      said.    “Mind if I join you?”

              “Pull up a chair,” was all he could think to say.

      “What are you drinking?” he said, and had a feeling he was

      in trouble.

              “Cape Cod.”

              “Thought so,” Spot said, clearing her lounge chair of

      the laptop and empty plate.       She was looking at him again.

      The same way she looked at him in the bar.       “Need a

      refresher?” he asked.

              “Sure,” she said.     “I don’t have to drive home.”

              Inside at the bar, he watched her through the glass as

      he fixed her drink.      She was peering through the telescope.

       “Can’t do it,” he said aloud, as if it would help convince
      him.    “Getting married soon,” he said as he packed the ice.

       “Just can’t do it.”      He measured the vodka and added a

      little extra.     “Not gonna do it.”    He poured the cranberry

      juice saying, “Ain’t gonna happen.”       He squeezed the lime

      into the drink.       “Nope,” he said, getting a napkin.   “I am
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                 195


      going to remain faithful to the woman that loves me.”

            She was still looking through the telescope when he

      came outside.     “Here we are,” he said, thinking how it’s not

      gonna happen, and handed her the drink.

            She raised her drink.    “To fucking gorgeous men.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       196




                                    Chapter 16


            “I’ll drink to that,” Beckett said and toasted

      champagne glasses with the Senator.        “Can you believe the

      luck?”    The cold champagne flowed down his throat chilling

      him on the inside while the hot bath and glowing candles

      warmed him outside.      He took another sip.

            “Those security cameras don’t lie,” McAlpin said.

      “First thing tomorrow morning when that bank opens, you’re

      going to be there with warrants,” he said.       He took a sip of

      his champagne.     “Could you pass the soap?”

            Beckett felt for the soap.     “I’ll get your back if you

      want.”

            “Thanks.”    The Senator turned around in the big garden

      tub, making sure not to knock over any candles.       The jets
      had made it extra bubbly--just the way they liked it.       “By

      noon tomorrow,” he began as Beckett scrubbed his back, “I’ll

      tell them to hold their silly little hearing.       It’s not

      going to bother me one bit--oh, yeah, right there--it

      itches.   That little punk from Florida can dig up whatever
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      197


      he wants because without her evidence, there’s nothing,” he

      said.    “I’m in the clear.”

              “What if she made copies?”   Beckett asked.    The

      Senator’s wide bottom was wedged between Beckett’s legs,

      smashing them against the tub sides, almost giving him a

      charley-horse.

              “A little lower,” the McAlpin said, arching his back.
      “That’s it.    Right there.”    The Senator continued, “Highly

      unlikely, Beckett.      Not enough time.”

              The pain in Beckett’s leg was getting intense.       “Could

      you scoot up just a little?”

              The Senator adjusted himself .      “How’s that?”

              “Perfect,” he said.    “How can you tell if she made

      copies of the disks?”

              “That’s easy.   The disk will have an access code

      corresponding to the Julian date and time the file was

      opened or copied.”

              “Sure,” Beckett said.   “But what if she printed the

      documents and copied them.”

              “There’s thousands of pages, son.     I just don’t think
      she would have had the time,” he said.        “She left the clinic

      after midnight, and you have footage of her at nine the next

      morning.    Where could she have downloaded, printed, and made

      copies of the files at that time of the night?”

              “Kinkos,” Beckett suggested.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     198


            The Senator paused in thought for a moment.     “We can

      run tests on what we get tomorrow.     If she made copies,

      we’ll know about it.      Even if she Xeroxed them, we can

      tell.”

            “How?”   Beckett asked.    He had never heard of anyway

      you could tell if a document had been copied and he’s

      usually up on these kinds of things.
            “It’s one of the best kept secrets of the FBI.     When

      the light of the copier passes under the original, it

      unevenly lightens the original’s text.     The second half of

      the page is always lighter; that’s when the lamp is its

      hottest.”

            “No shit?”    Beckett said.

            “You can’t see it without a microscope, but it’s

      there,” the Senator said.     “And, there’s always a small

      trace of toner on the original.”

            “What if one of the members of Prodigy testifies?”

      Beckett asked.

            “That’s never going to happen.     You see, son.   That’s

      the beauty of Operation Prodigy,” McAlpin said.     “Nobody in
      Prodigy knows they’re in it.     If you mention Operation

      Prodigy to any of them, they won’t have a clue as to what

      the hell you are talking about.”     The Senator managed to

      turn in the tub to face Beckett, again careful of the

      candles.    “They are all geniuses, but none of them are smart
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     199


      enough to figure it out.      We made sure of that.    And that,

      son, is why this program has been so successful since I

      started it forty years ago.”

            Beckett sipped his drink.     If felt too good going down.

      “You’re the genius, Daddy,” he said and stroked the

      Senator’s face with his hand.     The time on his watch caught

      his eye.    “Shit.   I’ve got to get going.”
            “What time is it?”

            “Almost two,” Beckett said and stood up.        The water and

      suds slipped down his legs.     “I told Meg I’d be home late.

      I don’t want her to worry.     You know how wives can be.”

            “If I think back, I can,” the Senator said.       “Give her

      my love.    When I see that lovely wife of yours, I’ll

      apologize for keeping you.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       200




                                    Chapter 17


            Dmitri tapped the bell on the front desk of the ancient

       motel.   Behind the desk, a door stood ajar and the sound of

      talk radio blared from behind it.      It was that General

      again.    He couldn’t get rid of him.      He tapped the bell a

      second time.

            “...it’s the Trilateralists that are tearing the

      country apart.     They’re the ones behind the black

      helicopters that we, along with our listeners, have spotted

      across the United States.      Let me ask you this, why is it

      that the locations that have the most sightings of black

      helicopters also have the highest number of people that

      speak foreign languages?      Two words: G-seven.   I’ve seen top

      secret memos about the G-seven’s plan to install a microchip
      in every American baby.       This chip would contain all the

      information the Tricksters need to keep tabs on you.       Your

      social security number, bank account numbers, anything they

      wanted to know, they could find out...”

            Dmitri rang the bell again, twice.       When the bell
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         201


      stopped sounding, the talk show host’s voice returned.

              “...And you know what’s made us weak?      I’ll tell you

      what’s made us weak, folks.        It’s the factories.   A country

      that doesn’t make anything can’t survive.        If they would

      just bring the factories back, instead continuing their

      crazy NAFTA policy, we could solve America’s homeless

      problem.    Right now were spending $ 1.5 trillion every year
      on NAFTA.    We could take that money and buy brand new

      $50,000 homes for the 3 million homeless Americans and give

      them the keys...”

              Dmitri was quickly becoming impatient.      He banged the

      bell over and over, yelling, “Somebody get the hell out

      here.    Let’s go.   Somebody get the fuck out here now!”      A

      moment later, an old man using an aluminum walker shuffled

      out from the back room.        Dmitri had his badge ready to

      flash.

              “Need a room?” the old man asked.

              “Need a room number,” Dmitri said.

              The old man looked at him funny and said, “Sure.       We

      got plenty of ‘em.      Take your pick.”    He turned as if he
      were going back to his room.

              “Where you going, geezer,” Dmitri called.

              “I don’t have time for your games, buster,” the man

      said.    “My show’s on.       Now either you’re going to have to

      wait for the ten second break for station identification or
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      202


      hang on for the three minute spot at twenty after.”

              Dmitri flipped open the badge.    “Federal agent, sir.      I

      need a room number of one of your guests.”

              The old man flashed Dmitri a look of disgust.      “Got a

      warrant?”

              “No,” Dmitri said.    “But I can get one.”

              “You do that,” the man said and turned away.
              “I’ll bet you do a lot of cash business here, don’t

      you,” Dmitri called.      “I would hate it if I had to involve

      the IRS in this.     They love cash businesses.”     Sure it was a

      mean, empty threat, but that was half the fun of playing a

      Fed.

              “Damn Federales,” the man called from the back room.

      “You can all go to hell.      They was here last year and

      audited me.    Found nothing.    So go to hell.”

              Dmitri was getting nowhere and knew it.      The Amerikans

      nowadays, it seemed were more cautious of their government

      than Ruskias ever were.       The difference is that the

      Amerikans know the law, and they know what they can get away

      with.    In the Soviet there were no rules.    If the government
      wanted to search your home they could--at any hour of the

      day for no reason at all.      And they didn’t need fucking

      warrants.    Today, anyone who ever watched the crap that’s on

      Amerikan TV knows that cops must have warrants.        He tried an

      alternate, more direct approach.      “Okay, mister.    You win.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       203


      I need a room, though.        It may take until tomorrow until the

      warrant gets here.”

              The old man walkered back out to the desk.     He stopped

      briefly to push his hair over his bald scalp.        “Got cash?    I

      don’t take no plastic.        Don’t believe in it,” he added.

      “And I sure as hell ain’t giving the government no credit.”

              “I’ve got cash,” Dmitri said.     He raised his wallet to
      the high counter and flipped through it indiscreetly in

      sight of the man.      Dmitri caught the man staring at the full

      wallet.    “You like what you see, old man?”

              The man shuffled closer to the wallet.     His face was

      almost pressed against it, as he leaned over his walker.          “I

      might recall some of the room numbers if I had something to

      help me remember.”

              “Like this?”   Dmitri said, thumbing through a wad of

      fifties.

              “Yeah,” the old man said.

              “Sorry,” Dmitri said.     And before the old man could

      react, Dmitri struck the man’s left cheek.        He hit him so

      hard, the old man fell over his walker and landed halfway on
      a chair and the floor, his Invacare walker tangled in his

      legs.    “I’m on a tight budget,” Dmitri said, and walked

      around the counter.

              He checked the back room.     Empty.   He searched the desk

      and found that room 27 was occupied by a Mr. Christopher
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    204


      Jenkins.    The only other room taken was room 26, occupied by

      a woman.    Dmitri took the master key and left the man laying

      on the floor.     The old man looked like he may have been

      breathing but Dmitri didn’t have time to check.

             Room 27 was near the end of the right wing of the

      hotel, close to where he parked.      He had parked the van on

      the right side of the hotel because he had seen a motorcycle
      parked by the left wing.      Cooper Sumner was being very

      cautious not parking in front of his room.

             The door to room 27 was locked, of course, and in the

      darkness and silence of the empty night, Dmitri Chernyshev

      listened at the door and heard the low drone of a man

      mumbling.    He silently slipped the key into the door and

      turned the knob slowly.       Surprisingly, the old door was

      didn’t squeak.     He focused on the body in the bed.

             His time for revenge was here.     For six years, he

      planned for the day he would find Cooper Sumner and kill the

      bastard.    He raised the gun to the bed, but something wasn’t

      right.   It was all too anticlimactic.     He had always hoped

      that he could see Coop’s eyes when he killed him.       Or more
      importantly, Coop would see his eyes.       It wouldn’t be true

      revenge if Cooper didn’t know it was Dmitri that had killed

      him.   It’s only revenge if, for even one small moment, the

      target knows why they’re being killed.

             He stared down the barrel and wondered if he should
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                205


      give Sumner a fighting chance.   “Fuck it,” he said, and

      opened fire.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    206




                                    Chapter 18


            Coop awoke from a light sleep to the distinctive sound

      of a silencer in the night.      He reached for his Browning and

      scrambled to his feet as he screwed the silencer into the

      barrel.   Through the window he saw a white haired man in the

      doorway of room twenty seven.      It had to be Dmitri.

            They had taken separate rooms, but Coop stayed in the

      one registered to Kathryn in the event someone came in the

      middle of the night and started shooting at her.     But he

      hadn’t counted on Dmitri finding him so quickly.     Somehow

      Chang knew exactly where he was going.

            Coop brought the gun up, trying to line up a shot

      through the window, but Dmitri was halfway inside the other

      room, and the angle of fire was terrible.     Feeling
      completely vulnerable, wearing only his boxers, he silently

      opened the door and stepped into the dim overhead light.

      With his back to wall he sidestepped to room twenty seven,

      his weapon pointed at the open door.

            As he approached, he saw the shadow inside by the bed.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       207


       It would only be a matter of seconds before Dmitri pulled

      back the covers and found a thick stack of linen and pillows

      and a tape recording of Coop’s notes.      Coop leveled his

      weapon on Dmitri’s back.      “Looking for me?”   Coop asked.

              Dmitri turned around slowly, his hands in the air.

      “So, once again you’ve outsmarted me, Cooper,” Dmitri said.

              “It’s not that difficult,” Coop said.     “I heard you
      might be in the neighborhood.       Still sore about the swim?”

              “No,” Dmitri said calmly.    “It was not the swim.”     Then

      he suddenly screamed, “It was the six fucking years in a

      goddamn filthy prison!”       He composed himself, collected his

      thoughts and politely added,       “That’s what I’m sore about.”

              “You know what I can’t understand is how you found me

      so fast,” Coop said.      “You must’ve had some help from my

      camp.”

              “Nimnoga.”

              “A little?”   Coop said.   “I’d say Chang set me up

      perfectly.    To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed that I

      was burned so easily.”

              Dmitri smiled.   “You’re getting soft in your
      retirement, Cooper.      You’ve let emotions get in the way of

      your life,” he said.      And men like you and me, we shouldn’t

      let emotions in.      We can’t afford to get mad, or fall in

      love.    Emotions can kill us,” Dmitri said.      “They are our

      true enemy.”    Dmitri dropped his weapon on the bed.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       208


            Coop steadied the gun on Dmitri.      In front of him was a

      murderer.    But no matter how he tried to execrate Dmitri,

      together, they shared a bond.      The unity of killing.   Coop

      peered down the barrel of his Browning and could see

      himself.    They were mirror images of each other with only a

      thin, convoluted line separating the two like the line

      separating the ocean and the sky on a foggy morning.
            Long ago, Coop could justify his killings “for the good

      of the country.     For the good of the people.”   But in the

      end, he was really killing for his seven figure alimony

      deposit.    Not much different from Dmitri’s motives.      He

      hated what he’d become.       It was the reason he left the

      Community.    Through his mind’s eye, he kept seeing the

      little Colombian boy orphaned on the hillside.      He got four

      hundred thousand to orphan the kid.      Hell, he paid for his

      house with the cash from the job.

            But killing for survival was a different motive.          And

      right now, he and Dmitri shared the same motive.      Today,

      only one of them was going to leave that room alive.       And

      Coop looked down the barrel at his reflection, hating what
      he saw.

            Something in Coop’s eyes must have given him away.

      Dmitri suddenly dove to the bed and grabbed his weapon as he

      rolled off the edge, managing to squeeze off a shot.       It

      landed in the metal door jamb.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         209


              Coop returned fire, hitting Dmitri in the side.       Coop

      fired another round, impacting in Dmitri’s chest just before

      he fell over the edge of the bed.        Coop listened for

      movement, then walked to where Dmitri was laying.

              Coop kept the Browning on the Russian and grabbed his

      recorder.    A shadow moved on the wall in front of him, and

      he spun ready to fire.
              “My God!    What happened?”   Kathryn said, standing in

      the door way.

              He lowered the weapon.    “Get your gear.    It’s check out

      time.”

              “Who is he?”

              “I’ll fill you in later.      Let’s go.”   He heard

      Kathryn’s footsteps on the sidewalk as he searched the body.

      He took the wallet, surprised at the amount of cash.          The

      money was going to come in handy since he was now in the

      same boat as Kathryn, not able to use any form of traceable

      transaction.       Tracing credit card transactions is no big

      deal.    Rummage through someone’s trash, and anyone with a

      phone, the right account number and a social security number
      could track anyone else across country.        He thumbed through

      the stack of hundreds then slipped the wallet into his

      pocket.    In less than two minutes, they were on the Harley

      headed southwest.

              Fifty miles later, Kathryn was falling asleep on the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     210


      back of the bike, Coop’s adrenaline rush had subsided.         His

      heart was ticking at his usual fifty five beats per minute.

            The wind was blowing through the empty fields as he

      rambled away from the approaching Kansas dawn.       The

      headlight cut a path through the light fog, as the sun came

      up behind him, turning the fields from black to blue to gray

      to brown.
            The sunrise is the coldest part of the day, and for

      Coop, the most lonely.        Dmitri’s life ended as uneventfully

      and as quickly as did the others he had killed.       Most of the

      time it was no dramatic shootout, no lingering confessions

      as his prey lay dying, and nobody waking up from the dead,

      grabbing you as you walk away.       It was just a simple

      finality.    He tried not to think about Dmitri.     Those things

      are better if put away in some dark corner of his brain.        He

      just hoped he had an empty corner left.

            They rode until the sun had warmed the ground, melting

      the thin layer of frost that spread across the fields.         He

      saw a dirt road ahead and slowed for it.       The change in

      speed awoke Kathryn.      Her arms tighten around him, and in a
      small way made the dawn a little less lonely.

            “Where we going?” she yelled over the roar of the bike.

            Coop pointed to a old oak grove by a small stream.        He

      pulled off, maneuvered the bike through the trees, and found

      a place out of sight from the main road.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                211


            With the engine off, the silence of the dawn returned.

       The higher, thin branches of the trees clacked with the

      slight wind.    In the distance, a cow bellowed, and the

      occasional passing crow cawed.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     212




                                    Chapter 19



              Mallory walked up the old cement steps to the Medicine

      Lodge courthouse just as the sun came above the buildings.

      He was in time for shift change.      It would give him an

      opportunity to talk to most of the deputies.      Hell, he might

      get to talk to all four of them.      What a geedunk, fucking

      town.    Geedunk, with a hard G; he loved that word, geedunk.

      He picked up at Quantico going through sniper school with

      the Marines.    He also loved his boots and just about

      everything else about himself.      He watched them as they

      climbed the steps.

              Mallory was a fashion-less man.    So much so, he was
      always in style.     The only clothes he ever wore were black.

      Today, like every other day, he wore black jeans, black

      cowboy boots, a black T-shirt and a long black leather

      duster.    He particularly loved the duster because it looked

      great with his long blonde hair and it gave him the ability
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     213


      to conceal anything he wanted beneath it.      This morning,

      going into the police station, he concealed nothing but a

      Beretta 92F and an authentic FBI badge with his codename,

      Mallory Washington.      All the codenames were the same:

      Washington.    Special Agent last-name-first, Washington.       The

      badge sometimes confused the idiots of the world.      “There

      aren’t too many blonde headed Washingtons out there, if you
      know what I mean,” an ignorant sheriff once told him.

            Cherryvale had nothing to go on so far.      He had talked

      to the sheriff and the lady that owned the Torch--what a

      stupid name for a restaurant.      Somebody should’ve torched

      the shithole a long time ago.      She had nothing to offer.

      She didn’t see a thing.       And obviously the girl was not

      going to still be in town so he thought he’d check some

      nearby cities while the phone company dug up records, and

      the post office gathered its mail.      With any luck someone

      might have seen her yesterday.

            He pushed open the heavy door and walked into the large

      office.   A young deputy was sitting at one of the desks

      scattered around the room.      Some dirtbag was signing the
      paperwork the deputy gave him.      Another deputy sat on his

      fat ass with his feet on the desk playing one of those

      computer games.     There was no leadership around.   No

      leadership and no discipline.      The office to the left looked

      like it might be the sheriff’s, though it was empty.        A
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         214


      hallway from the back wall had a sign warning all visitors

      must be searched before proceeding--a rule that probably was

      never enforced.      The only kind of excitement they got around

      here is probably the occasional farmer who has a couple of

      hits of his homemade liquor, then terrorized the town on his

      John Deere.      Or the Indian who consumes a little too much

      Peyote and starts doing the rain dance in the downtown
      fountain.    And who the hell’s going to visit those people?

      Bunch of fucking geedunk losers.

              When no one in the office looked up, Mallory said

      politely, “Excuse me, gentleman.”

              The one with the dirtbag said, “May I help you?”

              “Yeah,” Mallory said, and showed the skinny deputy the

      badge.    “I need some help.    I’m looking for a woman that

      might’ve passed through here.”

              “Filo?    Could you help this fellow?”

              Filo never looked up from his game.      “In a sec.   I’m

      busy.    Just sit down.”

              Earnest looked up at Mallory with an apologetic look on

      his face and said, “Filo?      I think you--”
              “I said in a second!    Jesus Christ, I’m having my best

      game ever.       Sit down, Goldilocks.   I’ll be there in a sec.”

              Mallory strode over without saying a word.     And before

      Filo could look up, Mallory snatched the Game Boy from his

      pudgy fingers and smashed it three times against the wall so
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    215


      fast that Filo had no time to respond.     Filo’s eyes followed

      the toy as Mallory set it back into his lap.

            As Filo’s staring at the smashed Game Boy, Mallory

      kicked the deputy’s feet off the desk, spilling him and his

      chair to the floor.

            “What the fuck?” the deputy said, trying to kneel.

      “Who the hell are--”
            Mallory showed him the I.D. and said, “Get the hell up,

      you piece of shit.”      God, he loved this part.   He watched as

      the man stood with great difficulty.     Then just as the

      deputy was almost erect, Mallory pushed him back down.       “I

      said get the hell up.”

            “What the hell are you doing?”     Earnest said from

      behind.

            “Stay out of this, Earnest,” Mallory warned.      “This is

      between me and this pile of shit.”     Filo stood, trying to

      snap to attention.

            “Look, shithead,” Mallory began to lecture, “Anyone

      could have walked in here and done this to you,” he said.

      “I could have been part of a gang to rip off the Happy Seven
      Food Mart.    All--”

            “I just done that yesterday,” the vagrant blurted.

            Mallory shot the dirtbag a look and continued, “And all

      I had to do was come in here and kick both of your asses and

      the town would have been mine.     Your ass would have been a
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        216


      piece of cake.       But I don’t know about Earnest’s.   He looks

      pretty scrappy.”      It was good to have one of them on your

      side.    “You’re lucky it was me, a Federal Agent.”      He looked

      around the room.      “You know what this office represents,

      shithead?”

              Filo shook his head.

              “I represents the public....It represents safety....It
      represents ability....It represents service.”       He was

      running out of things to say, and trying not to laugh, so he

      settled for, “It represents your ability to serve the public

      safely.    Do you understand me?”

              “Yes sir.”

              “Very good,” he said.    “Now let’s start over.”     He

      offered his hand and said, “I’m looking for a woman that

      might have passed through here recently.”      He handed Filo

      the photo taken from the security camera.

              Filo studied it for a minute and handed it back.      “No.

       I ain’t seen her,” he apologized.      “Can I sit down now?”

              Mallory nodded.

              “Let me take a look,” Earnest said.    “I saw a woman
      yesterday when I’s picking him up at the drug store.         She

      was with her fiancé.      A real nice guy.”

              “This her?”    Mallory asked, handing him the photo.

              Earnest needed only to look for a second.    “That’s her,

      all right.    Strange one too.    She thought I was there to
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       217


      arrest her.    Now I know why.”

            “What’d she do?”        Filo asked.

            “Russian spy,” Mallory said and pulled a chair up to

      the desk.

            “Why don’t you put out an APB,” asked Earnest.

            “Good idea, Earnest.       But it might scare her into

      hiding,” Mallory said.        “And we were almost on top of her.”
            “That’s good thinking,” Filo said.       He didn’t say it

      with enough enthusiasm to be sincere, and was probably just

      trying to score a few points with Mallory.

            “But now we’re at a standstill,” Mallory said.       “We

      have no idea which way she could have gone,” he said, and

      took out a small note pad.        “Did either of you talk to her?”

            “I did,” Earnest said.       “But it was not about where she

      was going.”

            The vagrant piped up again.       “I heard her,” he said.

      “Sure ‘nuff.    I heard her.      I know where she’s headed.”

            Mallory moved slowly in front of the prisoner and

      stood, leaning over, placing a palm on each arm of the man’s

      chair, staring face to face with him.       Mallory tried not to
      inhale.   The dirtbag needed a shower.      “Now why don’t you

      just tell us where that might be, cowboy,” he said.

            “Tell you what, blondie.       I’ll make a deal with you,”

      the vagrant offered.

            “What kind of deal?”       Mallory asked.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       218


            “You a federal agent.     You can pardon me.    Pardon me

      and I’ll tell you.”

            Mallory turned to Earnest.     “What’d he do?”

            “Stole from the Happy Seven.”

            “What’d he steal?”

            “Food.”

            He turned back to the prisoner.     “Fair enough.   Now
      where’d they go?”

            “You didn’t let me finish,” the man said.       “I want a

      pardon and a new set of clothes.      These stink.”

            “That they do,” Mallory said, backing away.      “Fine.

      You got new clothes.      Deputy,” he said turning to Earnest,

      “take him shopping today.     Get him some durable clothes.”

      Mallory couldn’t take the smell any longer and pulled up a

      chair across from the prisoner.     “Now, tell me--”

            “Wait!    I still ain’t finished.   I want a pardon, new

      clothes and a night in the hotel.”
            “I suppose you’re going to want room service?”      Mallory

      said, beginning to loose his patience.

            “It’s not a holiday without it,” the man said imitating

      Robin Leach.

            “Fine.    A pardon, new clothes, and one night at the

      hotel with room service.      Anything else.”   He would have

      promised him anything to find the girl.     It wasn’t as if he

      was really going to give it to him.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      219


            “A bus ticket to Florida.”

            “Deal.   Now where’d she go?”

            “Let me see the bus ticket,” the man said.

            Mallory shot up from his chair, sending it careening

      into the wall across the room.     He leaned over the vagrant

      and through a clenched jaw said, “Look you little maggot.

      You want to fuck with blondie?     Come on.    Try me.
      Otherwise, tell me what I want to know.        Got it?”

            “Yes sir,” the man said.

            “Good,” Mallory said.     Then for good measure and to

      make sure he had the prisoner’s fullest attention and utmost

      cooperation, with the whip of his neck, he head-butted the

      vagrant in the nose.      Instantly the blood began flowing.

            “Ah, man!    What’d you go and do that for?” the dirtbag

      asked, trying to catch the blood in his hands.       “Look at me.

       I’m bleeding,” he said to Earnest.

            “To make sure we understand each other,” Mallory said.

       “Where’d they go?”

            “Grand Canyon,” he said.     He lifted his shirt-tail and

      blotted his nose.
            “Who was she with?”     Mallory asked.    “And, try direct

      pressure.”

            “Some big guy,” he said holding his nose, making his

      voice nasally.     “Short brown hair.   He was tall.      Six-two.

      Easy one-ninety.     But all muscle, you know.”    The maggot
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                          220


      stopped for a moment.         “Filo, get me some tissue.”

              Filo looked up from his desk to Mallory to see if he

      had to get it.

              “Get him some goddamn tissue, Filo.        And get me some

      coffee too--black.      Earnest, coffee?”    Mallory offered.

              “None.”

              “Dirtbag?”
              “Yeah,” the vagrant answered.      “With four sugars.”   The

      direct pressure seemed to be working.        The blood had stopped

      but he kept pressure on it to be safe.        “So as I was saying,

      they was talking about how somebody’s trying to kill her.”

              “What’d he say?”

              “At first he didn’t believe her, but then the crazy

      fool agreed to help her.        Like a knight in shiny fucking

      armor.”

              “And you’re positive they’re headed for the Grand

      Canyon,” Mallory asked.

              “Positive,” the man said releasing pressure from his

      nose.    “Like I said, a knight in shiny fucking armor.        They

      even rode away on an armored horse.”        He took a sip of
      coffee and turned to the other deputy.        “Hey, Filo, how

      ‘bout a doughnut?”

              “A bike?”    Mallory asked.    “What kind?”

              “A real nice one.      A Harley Fat Boy.   Black and chrome.

       Fucker was bad.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     221


            Mallory picked up a phone and arranged for a chopper to

      meet him at the canyon, then quickly hung up.        He turned to

      the vagrant.    “Very good, Dirtbag.      For a drunken geedunk,

      you did pretty good.”         He made the sign of the cross on the

      man, the way a Catholic priest would and said, “Consider

      yourself pardoned.”      He left the deputies with a bogus

      address to send the bills for the clothes and the hotel
      stay, said adios and got the hell out of that geedunk

      fucking town.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     222




                                    Chapter 20


            The sun through the open door brought Dmitri back from

      the dream world.     He struggled to sit up, but the pain in

      his chest was overwhelming so he lay there for a moment

      longer.   He wiggled his toes, mildly surprised he could.       He

      tried his fingers, and everything worked like it was

      supposed to.    The Russian fought through the pain in his

      chest and managed to sit up.

            With his body feeling like it was returning to life, he

      unbuttoned his shirt, gently removed it, then shed the

      bullet proof vest.      He had never worn one before, but had

      found it in the van along with other gear, and thought he

      would give it a try.      Although it was heavy, he felt it gave

      him an edge.    And today it did.    He held it up for
      inspection.    There were three nine-mil rounds almost

      imbedded in the jacket.       He stood and painfully put the

      shirt back on, then twisted and turned his torso, stretching

      the sore muscles.

            The keys to the van were still under the seat, and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                              223


      Dmitri sped out of the parking lot heading for the next town

      toward the Grand Canyon.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       224




                                      Chapter 21


            The sun over the gulf poured into the sliding glass

      door in Cooper’s bedroom.        The obnoxiously bright sun burned

      Spot’s eyes as he slowly opened them.          He had slept so hard,

      they were caked shut.         Sometime during the night someone had

      crept up on him and forced a rusting piece of rebar through

      his head about an inch above his ears and were now sliding

      it back and forth, and moving it all around, as he tried to

      remember what the hell had happened last night.          He squeezed

      his head, trying to stop the pain.

            Spot managed to get to his feet to stop the damn

      sunlight blasting through the window like some kind of

      goddamn nuclear flash.        He pulled the vertical blinds shut

      and when he turned around, he noticed two things were not
      right.

            One: Susan Chang lay in his bed, the sheets resting

      just below her small firm breasts.           She was still asleep, a

      light snore escaping from her delicate nose.          And that

      wouldn’t have really been a big deal had it not been for
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       225


      problem number two: the house smelled like bacon.

              It took a minute to register that someone was

      downstairs in the kitchen cooking breakfast--probably an All

      American breakfast, as Anna liked to call it.       Cheese eggs,

      bacon, grits and raisin toast.       She had taken the idea from

      Waffle House the only night he had ever seen her drunk.       By

      the end of the night, Anna knew what scattered, smothered,
      covered, chunked, diced and topped meant, and was yelling it

      proudly for everyone to hear.

              Spot started pacing the room in long strides.     “Fuck.

      Fuck.    Fuckin’ A.   What am I going to do,” he said and paced

      faster.    In a moment she was going to burst through the door

      with a big plate of food, then probably force feed it to him

      plate and all.     Last night slowly came back to him like he

      was remembering parts of a dream.       He remembered talking at

      first about the stars, then Coop...Jesus Christ, he hoped he

      didn’t tell her anything he shouldn’t have.       Coop was his

      best friend and there was no way he would jeopardize him or

      anything he was doing.        He had been told a thousand times

      not to talk about that night in the helicopter and he didn’t
      think he ever did...except once he told Anna, and maybe last

      night, he might have mentioned something about it to Susan.

       But it was such a great story, it was impossible not to

      tell.    But that was the least of his problems.

              Spot tried to recall every part of the conversation,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       226


      but the visuals of last night in bed kept creeping in.

              And down stairs was Anna.

              “Shit.    What am I going to do?”   He paced across the

      room, then stopped suddenly and looked at Susan.       She was

      fast asleep.      She wasn’t going to wake up anytime soon.   He

      would leave her up here, scarf down Anna’s All American

      Breakfast, and fifteen minutes later tell her he’s got to
      get ready for work.      He’d leave a note in plain sight

      telling Susan not to come down if she woke up.

              He slipped on some shorts, being extra careful not to

      wake her.    A quick sniff of his hands, his face, and

      whatever else he could smell, told him he needed to rinse

      off Susan’s perfumes and other fragrances before seeing

      Anna.    But the water running might wake her, or worse, Anna

      might hear it and consider it an invitation to come up.

              Coop kept his toiletries under the sink, and Spot

      grabbed the first thing he saw without really looking.        He

      sprayed some on and instantly tried to muffle a scream as

      his skin felt as if it was being scoured from his bones with

      sandpaper.       He held the bottle so that could read it: Raid.
              Now walking stiffly, trying desperately to take the

      pain and keep his skin from moving, Spot left Susan snoring

      in the big bed.      He posted a note where he knew she would

      find it, shut the door behind him, and went to greet Anna

      and her breakfast.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       227


            Anna was in the kitchen, and Spot tried his best to

      pretend he was surprised.        “What a surprise,” he said,

      stifling a yawn.     “How long have you been here?     This is

      such a nice surprise,” and hugged her, but not too hard.

      His chest still burned from the Raid.

            “I figured you worked so late last night that you might

      wake up hungry so I wanted to make you my All American
      Breakfast,” she said.         “It’s such a beautiful day, I thought

      we could eat out on the deck.”        She stirred the cheese into

      the eggs and said, “You watch the eggs and I’ll go set the

      table outside,” she said.

            The deck.    It was littered with food, glasses and who

      knew what else.     He remembered they did it at least once out

      there.

            “No.    No,” he said, trying to speak calmly, “I’ll set

      the table.    It might need to be hosed off.      You know with

      the birds and all.”

            “Okay,” she said. “But make it nice.        I want this to be

      special.     Maybe after breakfast,” she said, raising an

      eyebrow and trying to look very sexy, “we could go upstairs
      and...you know.”

            Spot had neither the desire, the energy, nor the room

      in bed to do...you know.        But he had never turned her down

      before and didn’t want to make her suspicious.        “That sounds

      like a great idea,” he said walking to the deck.        “I just
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      228


      hope I’m not too full after eating your delicious All

      American Breakfast.”

              Outside, the deck looked pretty good--nothing

      incriminating except for a couple of glasses and the towel

      they had used to clean up with last night after the first

      time.    A few minutes of work, and the place would be

      spotless.    The glasses were tipped by the wind and wedged
      against the east railing.       Spot bent to pick up the glasses

      and heard someone calling him.

              “Hey there, big fella,” Dick Velour said between huffs,

      wearing his Speedo bikini, and again Sweatin’ to the Oldies-

      -volume two this time.        The sun glistened on his bald,

      sweaty head.      He pendulous gut was covered with a thick

      black and gray pelt.      A gold medallion swung against his

      flabby chest in cadence to his vigorous workout, and a

      cigarette was burning in the ashtray on the table.

              “Morning, Dick,” Spot said unenthusiastically.     He

      peeked in to keep an eye on Anna in case she wandered

      upstairs.

              “How’s things at the bar?” Velour asked.
              “Fine.”   He searched the deck for any more evidence.

              “What are you doing with the profits?     I got this great

      vehicle that’s bringing in about thirty percent.       It’s a

      little risky, but I think you can handle it.”

              “No thanks,” Spot said.     “I’m sticking with CDs.”    Coop
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       229


      had told him to say CDs.       It really grates Velour.   “I’m

      getting a solid four and a quarter.”

            “Jesus Christ, son.       You’ll never make it that way,” he

      said shaking his head.        “You’ll work the rest of your life.”

       He said it as if that were a crime.

            “Well, by the time I donate to the various charities,

      there’s really not much left over.”       He knew that would
      really piss Velour off.

            Velour took a sip from his bloody mary Spot hadn’t seen

      and said, “Well it looks like you’re doing one thing right.”

            “What’s that?”

            “It looks like you and the good neighbor Susan Chang

      had a wild time last night.”       He said it loud enough for

      Anna to hear inside.      “Wanna see the video?”

            “Shhhut up.”    He looked in on Anna.     She saw him and

      waved.   Spot waved and smiled.

            Velour turned off the music, picked up his cigarette
      and his drink, and walked to the rail of his deck.        They

      were standing twenty feet away from each other, and Dick

      lifted a side of his Speedo, slipped out his penis and

      started to pee through the spindles.

            “Jesus, Dick.     I’m standing right here,” Spot said,

      turning his back.

            Dick laughed.     “Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go.

      Besides, the sand’ll soak it up,” he said.       “I didn’t
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     230


      realize Chang was such a wild woman, Spot.       But I got tell

      you that shit is contagious.       A lady friend and I were

      watching you two go to town until she couldn’t take it

      anymore, and we had to have our own little party.       I got

      that video too if you want it.”

             Spot turned as Dick finished.     “Would you shut the hell

      up?”
             “Sorry,” Velour said, and began speaking in hushed

      tones.   “You got company?”

             “That’s only the half of it,” Spot said.     He picked up

      the hose and began spraying the deck.

             “Hey Spot,” Velour called again as finished and shook

      himself.    “Have you noticed all of the cars parked along the

      street lately?”

             Spot stopped spraying.     “I remember a Cablemasters

      truck down the road.      Why?”

             “I’ve just seen a lot of government-type sedans on the

      block lately.”     He looked at Spot intensely as if he were

      going to confide in him.       “Is Coop up to something that he

      shouldn’t be?”
             “Don’t think so.”      Spot shrugged as if his question was

      no big deal.    “Maybe it’s someone else.     Or maybe it’s your

      imagination.”

             “Yeah,” Velour said and took a deep drag, holding in

      the smoke.    “You’re probably right,” he said exhaling.       He
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       231


      took a long draw from the bloody mary, turned on the music

      and continued his exercising.

            Spot checked on Anna.       She was headed outside.   He hid

      the glasses behind his back.       “Hi, hon,” he said innocently.

            “How is it going out here?       I hear a lot of talking and

      not much work being done.”

            “Everything is done.       I just got to get a towel and
      wipe off table.”     He started to slide past her.

            “What’s wrong with this one,” she said, reaching for

      the soiled towel.

            Spot grabbed her just in time.       “It’s dirty.   It’s been

      out here for awhile.      I’ll get a fresh one,” he said and

      shuffled her inside.

            “I’ll get one,” Anna said.       “They’re in his bathroom

      upstairs aren’t they?”        She ran for the steps as if she were

      toying with Spot.

            “Wait, I’ll get it,” he said and chased her to the

      steps, trying to act like he was horsing around with her.

      “The eggs are almost done,” Spot said.       “It’s time to eat.”

            “I guess you’re right,” she said and turned for the
      kitchen.

            Spot kissed the top of her head.       “You make the best

      All American Breakfast,” he said and patted her fanny,

      sending her off to the kitchen.       He let out an audible sigh

      of relief.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        232


              So far so good.   Everything was going as planned.       In a

      minute, he would eat.         In two minutes he would think of an

      excuse to get Anna to leave.        Everything was under control.

              “What’s all the racket down there?      Can’t a woman sleep

      late after an exciting, wonderful night?”

              There was a pause, and Spot looked at Anna who was

      standing over the stove, her mouth open and her eyes
      tearing.

              “Are you making me breakfast?” Susan called from

      upstairs.    “The bacon smells delicious.”

              Spot and Anna were still locked in a fierce stare, the

      tears of betrayal streaming down her face.        She started

      screaming something in Hungarian, then threw the pan of

      cheese and eggs at him.        Spot ducked just in time to miss

      the eggs, but never saw the pan of hot grits coming.        The

      creamy grits covered his chest, singeing his already raw

      skin, sticking to him like a milder version of napalm.

              “Goddamn it!” he yelled.      “What’d you go and do that

      for?”

              “You bastard,” she yelled.      “You bastard fucking.”
              He was not about to correct her.      “I’m sorry, honey,”

      he said, trying to smear the hot grits off him, but only

      spreading the heat, making it worse.        He didn’t know what

      else to say.    The whole idea of being married again still

      scared him.    He’d already been cleaned out by one woman.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        233


      And though he loved Anna, marriage was something he couldn’t

      commit to just then.      “I’m really sorry, Anna.”

            “I am sorry too,” she said, looking around the room as

      if for something else to throw.        She grabbed her purse,

      said, “The wedding is off.        I am going home to Hungary.      I

      have had enough of America.        Goodbye!”

            “Wait, Anna,” Spot called.        But it was no use.   She
      slammed the big door.         A moment later he heard her car start

      and speed away.

            “I guess my timing was off a little,” Susan said.

      “Sorry, Spot.”     She stretched to kiss him, being careful not

      to smear his grits.      “I’ve never had grits like this

      before,” she said, and licked him from his belly button to

      his left nipple, taking in a huge mouthful of grits.

            “Not now, Susan.”        He pushed her away and said, “Didn’t

      you get my note?”

            Before she could answer, she started spitting and

      gagging, and grabbing her throat.        White grits mixed with

      blood spewed pink from her mouth as she ran to the sink.

      She turned on the faucet, taking in mouthfuls of water and
      spitting them out.

            “What the hell is wrong?” Spot asked.

            She continued rinsing for a few more mouthfuls, then

      rested her head on the sink ledge.        “What kind of cologne

      are you wearing,” she asked quietly and out of breath.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         234


              “Cologne?”   And then it dawned on him.     “Raid.”

              “Wasp spray?” she asked.

              “No.   Ant spray.     Coop gets sugar ants from time to

      time.    They come up underneath the house.”      He stroked her

      head.    “You going to be all right.”

              “Yeah,” she said, very tired.     “I’ll be okay.”     She

      slowly stood up.     “Why don’t you fix us a couple of bloody
      mary’s.    I could use one.”

              She looked around the kitchen.     Spot noticed she was

      still moving a little slow and spitting a lot.        “Looks like

      I ruined your breakfast,” she said.

              He brought the drinks over and handed her one.        “That’s

      okay.    I’ll fix something later,” he said.

              “I’ve got a better idea,” she said, sipping the drink.

       She seemed in better spirits.        “Why don’t I take you out

      for breakfast.”

              It didn’t sound like such a great idea to Spot at

      first.    He had a lot to think about.      Anna leaving had left

      his stomach in knots, and the grits on him had turned cold

      and were beginning to flake off in big chunks, smearing the
      hardwood floors.     And watching Susan puke bloody grits was

      most unappetizing.

              On the other hand, he was not getting married.        He was

      no longer engaged.      He had no emotional ties.    And he had to

      eat.    “But please,” he said.      “No grits.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                             235


            “I promise,” Susan said and managed a smile.

            “Let me hose myself off,” he said.

            “C’mon.   I’ll give you a hand,” Susan offered.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        236




                                      Chapter 22


            Dorthy wrung her hands as she sat in the cold, white,

      almost clinical outer office of the local IRS branch while

      young, zealous, government CPAs behind the thick steel door

      were kind enough to decide the rest of her life for her.

      She got tired of the threatening letters and the harassing

      phone calls and wanted to solve this face to face.         However,

      face to face to them meant through a thick steel door.         The

      only thing she brought with her was a large brown envelope

      containing Garrett’s will.

            A chipper young man in circular glasses popped his head

      out of the steel door.        “Mrs. Halston?   Why don’t you come

      with me.”

            Dorthy stood slowly.        The cold weather was affecting
      her knees and knuckles, and sometimes it hurt to stand.           She

      followed the man along the boundaries of an enormous office

      packed with cubicles.         Busy little men and women punched

      calculators, and made phone calls, and it looked like

      circular glasses were standard issue.          As she was led into
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     237


      Interview Room 10, she wondered what how thick the line was

      between interview and interrogation.

              “Have a seat there, Mrs. Halston,” the kid said and sat

      down.    He left the file closed on the table.    “Mrs. Halston,

      the government has some very absurd rules.      Some are

      absolutely ridiculous.”

              “I’ll agree to that,” she said.    The man had a warm
      smile and sparkling eyes behind his glasses.

              “I’m sure you will.   Anyway,” he said, and adjusted his

      glasses, “One of those rules has to do with the inheritance

      tax.    And that’s where our problem lies.”    He said it as if

      it truly were his problem too.     Dorthy was taken aback at

      his politeness and his easy manner.       She was slowly

      beginning to like the man.

              “Let me explain how it works.    Let’s say a family has

      had held property for over a hundred years.      We see that

      with a lot of farmers, you know.     They may have bought the

      spread for $10,000 originally.     And over the years it’s been

      passed on down from generation to generation.      Well, this

      year, the property is now worth over six-hundred-thousand
      dollars, and when it’s passed down to the next generation,

      the one who receives the land is going to have to pay

      inheritance taxes--up to fifty-five percent.      And who’s got

      that kind of money laying around?       So they, more often than

      not, have to sell the property.”     He looked across the table
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      238


      to her directly.     “Does that make sense?”

            “No,” she replied.

            “Exactly.    They need to adjust the inheritance taxes,

      along with the capital gains taxes to account for inflation.

       So that if you own property you are only taxed on the

      increase in value after inflation has been subtracted.

      Follow me?”
            “I think so.”     It sounded like the same thing General

      Wright was saying on the radio this morning.

            “Otherwise people are going to end up selling what’s

      rightfully theirs just to give the government a huge chunk.”

            “That’s just not right,” she said.       “How can you do

      that?”

            “It’s the law,” he said.

            “It’s not the law,” she protested.       “It’s the tax

      code.”   Her abruptness startled even her.

            The young man leaned back in his seat.      “You’re exactly

      right.   And that brings us to your case,” he said and opened

      the envelope.     “You see, your late husband Garrett purchased

      that diner for $25,000 in 1955.     And now, forty one years
      later, the diner and the land are valued at $635,000.

      $35,000 over the inheritance tax threshold.       I doubt it

      would have come in that high if the interstate hadn’t been

      laid right in front of your diner.”     He punched numbers into

      the calculator while scanning the file, as if double
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       239


      checking his figures.         He adjusted his glasses and said,

      “And our calculations indicate that the taxes due on it are

      $335,500.”

              “Yes.   But I can’t pay that,” she said.     “That’s what I

      came down here for.      To tell you that I can’t pay it.”

              “You can’t pay your fair share, Mrs. Halston?”

              “Sure I can pay my fair share.      I just can’t pay what
      the government wants me too.”

              “But, Mrs. Halston, that is your fair share.”      He

      adjusted his glasses again.        “We take checks, you know.     And

      if you need to post-date it a few days,” he said smiling,

      “go ahead.      I’ll hold it just for you.    Just don’t tell my

      boss.”

              “You tell me where I am going to get that kind of

      money!” she demanded.

              He shrugged his shoulders.      “You can get an equity

      loan,” he said indifferently.        “They’re tax deductible,” he
      added and closed her file.        “Or you could always sell it.”

              “I can’t sell it,” she said indignantly.      “It’s all I

      have.    It’s my life.”

              “I don’t know what else to tell you.”

              She thought for a moment.      She needed to know all her

      options.    “What if I did sell it?      Would I have to pay so

      much in taxes?”

              “Let’s see,” he said and punched on his calculator
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      240


      again.   “You would still have to pay the inheritance taxes,

      and then you would have to pay gains taxes.      So lets say you

      sold it for its value: $635,000.      You would pay $335,500

      inheritance taxes and then $219,600 for gains taxes, letting

      you walk away with about $80,000.”

            “So after forty years of my husband sweating over the

      stove, he gets to keep eighty thousand, and you get over
      five hundred thousand?”

            “$555,100, to be exact.    But, yes.”

            The man’s arrogant aloofness angered her so intensely,

      she pushed away from the table and stood, and in a very

      firm, yet polite way, she said, “I’m sure your mother is

      very disappointed in you, son,” and left the room.

                              *       *          *

            “What’d they say?” Tiffany asked anxiously, pouring a

      cup of coffee for Dorthy as she walked through the door and

      out of the cold late morning.       Except for Earl, they were

      the only ones in the diner between the breakfast rush and

      the lunch crowd.

            Dorthy took the coffee.    The warmth in her hands was a
      welcome relief from the weather.      The pain in her knuckles

      slowly subsided.     “They said we could work something out and

      not to worry.”

            “Whew,” Tiffany said, pouring herself a cup and

      smacking her gum.     “That’s a relief.   I thought we might
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         241


      have to sell this place.”

              “I’ve turned down offers in the past and I am not going

      to sell now,” she protested.

              “I hear you, Dorthy,” Tiffany said.

              “Don’t let anyone push you around,” Earl said.      “And

      get me another slab of pie.”

              Dorthy pulled her apron from underneath the counter, as
      Tiffany cut the pie.

              “Don’t worry,” Tiffany said and put her arm around

      Dorthy.    “You’re a genius, right?”      She squeezed Dorthy for

      the answer.    “Right?”       She squeezed her so close, Dorthy

      could smell the gum.      Trident--original flavor, she thought

      it was.    “Everything’s going to work out.”

              “If I’m such a genius,” Dorthy said, “why am I sixty

      and still working in a diner?”

              “It’s part of God’s big plan, Sugar.      He’s got a plan

      for us all.    Me included.      How do you think I decided to be

      a nail technician?”      Before Dorthy could answer, Tiffany

      continued.    “I was in church and the preacher was going on

      about God’s plan and how we are all destine to fulfill his
      work.    Well, and I don’t know why I did this, but I started

      looking at my nails.      And they didn’t look too good.    And

      then I started looking at my mama’s nails and they didn’t

      look too good either.         Well, then I started looking at

      everybody else’s nails in the church that I could see.          I
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     242


      leaned over Dr. Billingsgood and his brand new wife in front

      of me, and their nails looked bad.     I slowly turned, without

      making a scene mind you, and looked at the florist, Mr.

      Lightfoot and his friend, Todd,--you know how everybody

      looks at them anyway--and their nails looked terrible!

      Suddenly, my whole body shivered, I started feeling faint.

      I knew I was going to slump down in the pew and cause a huge
      commotion.    Then, just as quickly as it came, it left.    And

      it was then that I realized the Lord had just spoken to me

      and told me what my role in his master plan was.”

            “A nail technician?” Dorthy asked.

            “A nail technician,” Tiffany said.     “And, you see, I

      just think that God has something in store for you more

      important that being a waitress at a road side diner.      After

      that sermon, I know he’s got big plans for you.     You’re a

      genius after all.”

            “I don’t know how,” Dorthy said and slipped by Tiffany

      to the dishwasher.      She opened up the large door and pulled

      the rack out.

            “Had any more spells lately?” Tiffany asked.
            Dorthy placed a handful of saucers on the rack.      “I had

      another one this morning.”

            “Which kind?” Tiffany asked.     “Where you feel alone?”

            “No.   It’s still like someone’s after me,” she said.

            “You haven’t had one like that in years,” Tiffany said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                243


            “They’ve been happening a lot more lately,” she said,

       dividing the silverware into the basket.

            “My mother used to have the same feelings,” Earl said

      through a mouthful of apple pie.   “Every time one of us

      would get hurt she would feel it,” he said.   “But if you ask

      me, I think she just said it to make us feel guilty.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        244




                                     Chapter 23


            Coop awoke suddenly from the same Colombian nightmare

      that haunted him even during his waking hours.         His shirt

      was soaked with sweat under his leather jacket.         He zipped

      his jacket to keep out the chills.          Above him swayed the

      higher branches of the oaks under which they lay.         Within

      arms reach, was Kathryn lying on her side, facing him.           She

      was breathing lightly through her mouth and a little drool

      slipped from the corner of her soft, thick lips.         Coop

      rolled to his side and watched her sleep.         She was very

      pretty.    Smooth, clear skin, thick dark-blonde hair.       And

      there was something else he could quite put his finger on

      that added to her whole beauty.       At first it seemed like a

      hint of innocence, but that would’ve been lost at the diner.
       No one comes out of something like that still innocent.           It

      was something else.      Something he had never seen, or

      perhaps, noticed.     There was a quality, an aura about her

      that lured him to her.        She lifted one eye and caught him

      staring.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       245


            “What are you doing?” she said.

            “I thought I saw a spider on you,” Coop said.

            She leapt from the sleeping bag and screamed,       “A

      spider?    Where?”

            “I said I thought I saw a spider.”

            “There’s no spider?” she said timidly and kneeled on

      the bag.    “Are you sure?”

            “Positive,” he said and lay back down, interlocking his

      hands behind his head.        He looked up into the blue sky,

      through the limbs wavering in the light breeze.       The morning

      was calm, peaceful, and a little chilly.       Out of the corner

      of his eye, he saw her doing the same thing.       They lay for

      minutes without saying a word, completely engrossed in the

      movement of the trees.

            Kathryn rolled to her stomach and rested her chin on

      her fists.    She was the first to break the silence.     “You

      don’t have any children, do you?” she asked.

            “No,” Coop said.

            “I didn’t think so,” she said.       “You don’t look like

      the type.”

            “I’m not quite sure how to take that.”

            “Ever wonder what kind of parent you’d be?” she asked

      turning her head just slightly.

            He rolled up to his side to face her.       “Sometimes I

      think about it,” he said.       “You?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       246


            “Yeah,” she said softly.       “I just think I’m going to

      screw the kid up.     I have no idea what I’m supposed to do,

      or how I’m supposed to act.        I never planned on having

      kids.”

            “You’ll be a great mom,” Coop said.         “Just do what your

      mother did.     So far you turned out all right.”

            “Hmm,” she snorted.       “My mom left when I was seven.”
            “Then do what your dad did,” Coop offered.

            “You think it’s that easy?” she said.

            “Was what your father did easy?”

            Kathryn paused.     “No.    I guess not.”   She rolled onto

      her back and gazed up at the trees.        There was another long

      silence as they both watched the sky.        But the silence

      wouldn’t last. “Ever just want to disappear?” she said.

      “Just disappear and leave everything behind.         Just escape,”

      she said.

            “What the hell do you think I’m doing now?” Coop said.

            Kathryn laughed.        “I’m not talking about escaping from

      some girl.    I’m talking about starting your entire life over

      again.”
            “More Americans die in Haiti than in any other

      Caribbean country,” Coop said.

            She turned her head and gave him a look.        “Having our

      own conversation, are we?”

            “Uh-uh.    Death certificates,” he said, “are so easy to
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       247


      get there.    More and more people are going to Haiti to fake

      their own deaths and collect their insurance.        From then on,

      they no longer exist as themselves, and usually for the

      first time in their lives, they have no responsibilities and

      a wad of cash in the bank.”

            “But how?    How do they get a new identity?”

            “There’s two ways.       One semi-legal.   The other not so
      legal.”

            “What’s the legal way.”

            “Our whole existence in proven by two pieces of paper.

      Drivers license and Social Security card.        Once you get one

      of those, you can get anything you need.”

            “What about a passport?”

            “If you can get an official one,” he said.       “They’re

      the best.    But if you get a cheap fake, you’ll spend a long

      time explaining it.”

            “Then?” she asked.

            “Then what?” he replied.

            “Then what?”

            “Then that’s it,” Coop said.       “You’re somebody else.”
            “Just like that?”

            “Just like that.        But what nobody ever tells you is you

      have to live and survive as that new person.        You can’t go

      back and forth between the old and the new or you’ll go

      insane.   You can’t even go back to where people knew you.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    248


      Can’t access bank accounts, can’t see old friends,” he said.

             “Not even for a second?”

             “You may be able to get into the banks for a short

      time, but once the bank’s been notified, your money’s no

      longer your money.”

             “What about the friends?”

             “They’ll be so shocked they’ll burn you.   For most
      people it would be the most exciting thing in their life so

      they’ll want to tell everybody.     And,” Coop said, “they’re

      going to be pissed.”

             “And they probably wouldn’t come to your next funeral,”

      she added.

             “Good point,” Coop said.    “Disappearing is tough to

      do.”

             “I don’t care,” she said.   “I’ll do whatever it takes

      to get away from McAlpin’s hit squad.     That guy at the hotel

      came too close,” she said.

             Coop rolled to his back.    “We’ve got to talk about

      that,” he said.     “It looks like we’re truly partners now.”

             “What do you mean?”
             “That guy at the hotel was after me.”   He didn’t want

      to give her the full story.    She didn’t need to know.   “We

      all have our skeletons,” he said.     “But you shouldn’t worry

      about that guy.”

             “What do you mean shouldn’t?    I thought you killed
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        249


      him.”

              “I did.   But,” Coop shrugged, “behind every good

      man...”

              “What?    His wife?”    She pushed away and rocked up to

      her haunches.      “His wife is after you too?    Who the hell are

      these people?”

              Coop thought for a moment and decided to tell her a
      little about his past.         After endangering her, it was only

      fair.    “A long time ago, I worked for the government.

      Mostly overseas,” he added.        “This guy, Dmitri, was an arms

      dealer for the Russian Mafia.”

              Kathryn sat for a minute as if trying to decipher the

      information.      “So, you’re a spy?”

              “Not anymore,” he said.      “I quit a few years ago.”

              “Why?” she asked.

              “I got tired of all the political backstabbing,” he

      said and laughed.

              Kathryn didn’t get the joke.      She scratched the spot on

      her neck where Coop said he had seen the spider.        “No more

      cold war?”
              “Something like that,” he said.      “I didn’t really enjoy

      the last few years.      And now I’m just trying to be a nice

      guy.”

              “Do you really think his wife will come after you?”

              “They’re pretty hell bent,” he said.      “They followed me
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                250


      this far.”

            “Maybe I can save your life,” she said.   “And we’ll be

      even.”

            Coop gave a short laugh.   “I don’t think I’d call that

      even.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      251




                                    Chapter 24


            Dmitri massaged his chest through his shirt as he

      looked for a gas station.      His bruises were turning a dark

      purple, and if he moved wrong, his back would spasm.      The

      van was far past empty and nothing was in sight.      The two

      lane road was edged by tall hardwoods and fields.      The

      scenery reminded him of the summer he had spent in south

      Russia when he was a boy, and there were no gas stations

      there either.     He carefully leaned and tuned in a radio

      station, hoping that would keep his mind off his pain.        The

      only thing he found was the voice of the General.

            “...and if you think this is a good thing, people, then

      think again.    Do this for me.    Would you?   If you take the

      members of the G7 and you divide the number of letters in
      their names by lucky number thirteen--from the thirteen

      apostles at the last supper.      Do you know what you get?

      That’s right....666.      The sign of the devil.   Now tell me

      that’s a good thing.      Now I know people have called us

      crackpots--,”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     252


              “I wonder why,” Dmitri mutter and flipped off the

      radio.    The One Stop Snack Shack was on the right, and he

      pulled in.

              He filled the tank with over 20 gallons, and as he

      walked in the store, he realized he hadn’t eaten for awhile.

              A long haired clerk stood silent, arms crossed, behind

      the counter as loud music played on a cheap boom box.       Other
      than the clerk and the noise, the store was empty.     Dmitri

      waded through the unopened boxes junk food, deciding what to

      eat.    He settled for a couple of Chick-O-Sticks, a handful

      of Slim-Jims, two liters of Coke, and a family size bag of

      Tostitos.    He also picked up a tooth brush, toothpaste, and

      some spray-on deodorant.

              “Thirty nine dollars, seventy four cents,” the clerk

      said, as the register drawer ringed open.

              Dmitri reached for his wallet.   “Shit!,” he said and

      stamped his foot like a child.

              “Don’t even try it,” the clerk said unaffected.

              “Fuck you,” Dmitri said and pulled his weapon from his

      back.    “You little hippie.   And turn that noise off.”
              “Hey, man,” the clerk said, turning off the radio, then

      raising his arms, “take what you want.     It ain’t my fucking

      money.”    His eyes darted to the parking lot, and Dmitri’s

      followed.

              A sheriff was getting out of his car, unaware of what
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     253


      was going on inside the One Stop Snack Shop.     He moved

      lethargically out of the car, stopping for a moment as if to

      catch his breath.

              “Put your hands down and don’t say a word,” Dmitri

      said.    “Act normal.”

              The clerk nodded and stepped back, crossed his arms

      looking as aloof as he did when Dmitri walked in.     Dmitri
      nodded an approval.      The hippie was doing good.

              But as the Sheriff opened the door, the clerk looked

      defiantly at Dmitri and said in a very calm tone, “This

      prick is trying to rob me, Jimbo.”

              By the time Dmitri turned and raised his weapon, the

      sheriff had his gun drawn.     From the corner of his eye,

      Dmitri could see the clerk slowly reach under the counter

      and pull out a double barrel sawed off shotgun.

              He was sure that the cop would be the first of the two

      to shoot, so he kept the gun on him.     The hippie clerk was

      probably too scared to fire.     Then again with these American

      punks, he couldn’t tell.

              Dmitri could see the sweat form on the bald cop’s head.
       He glanced to the clerk.     Nothing.   No emotion. No fear.

      In a way he respected the hippie’s attitude.

              Suddenly, a piercing, intermittent shrill broke the

      silence.    Dmitri looked down at his beeper flashing and

      screaming.    With his gun still on the cop, and his eyes
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                  254


      darting back and forth from the cop to the clerk, he pressed

      the button to read the number.     He caught the first few

      digits and said, “I’ve got to take this.”

            Dmitri jerked the trigger sending a round into the cop,

      then spun and fired again before the hippie could shoot.     As

      the clerk fell back into the Trojans and Tylenol, Dmitri saw

      the sheriff raise his gun, and planted another two rounds
      into the bald head, knocking the cop back to the floor.

      Then the clerk made the mistake of squirming, and Dmitri

      plugged him with another two.

            He gathered the food and the money from the register

      and headed out the door.      Then as an afterthought, he went

      to the beer cooler and pulled out two six-packs of Heineken.

            Outside, the road was empty.     No cars passed in either

      direction, and now that he thought about it, the sheriff’s

      car was the first he had seen all morning on that stretch.

      So with a slim chance of anyone passing by, and knowing that

      he wouldn’t find one for miles, Dmitri put his groceries in

      the van and made his call from the pay phones outside the

      One Stop.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     255




                                    Chapter 25


            Beckett and his team of three men arrived at the First

      Bank of Nashville precisely at 0830 and knocked on the door.

       Beckett flashed a badge through the glass door, and the

      teller fetched the manager.      A young man with a frightened

      look and a cheap suit approached with an overly large

      collection of keys.

            “Thank you,” Beckett said as he let his men barge

      through before him.

            “Can I help you,” the young man said.

            “What’s your name?” Beckett asked.     The boy looked too

      young to have keys to a bank.

            “Simon.    Simon Childers.”

            “Well, Mr. Childers, My name’s Beckett, and I’m here to
      rob the bank.”

            “What?” Childers said suddenly, exciting Beckett.

            “Just kidding, boy.”     The boy stared with a confused

      look as Beckett continued.      “Since when do you let in four

      men with guns before the bank opens?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                          256


            “You showed me a badge.       I thought that--”

            “Is that standard policy?” Beckett demanded.         “Or is

      this something you do on you own from time to time.            You

      know like a hobby.”

            “No sir.    I’ve never done it before.     I just thought--”

            “Look, Childers.        I’ll let this one slide.   We’ll keep

      it between you and me.        But if I catch you letting in four
      armed men into your bank, I’m going to have to report it.

      And you wouldn’t want something like that on your permanent

      record?”

            “No sir.”

            “I didn’t think so,” Beckett said.       “Now, show me to

      the   safe deposit boxes and bring me the master keys,” he

      said as he handed Childers the paperwork.        “I’ve got an

      warrant to see box 1343.”

            Childers opened the legal papers and scanned them.

      “Mr...?”

            “Beckett,” he said, hoping the boy didn’t notice the

      unsigned warrant.

            “Mr. Beckett,” Childers began nervously, almost
      stuttering. “I’ll have to wait for the bank Vice President

      before I can open this box.        Bank rules don’t allow a head

      teller to access individual boxes.”

            “But, Childers,” he began, “this box contains evidence

      from a serial killer that preyed on young boys.          Our
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      257


      intelligence indicates that the suspect will come by this

      morning to empty the contents.     We must reach it before he

      does or he could continue to rape and decapitate small boys.

       Would you want something like that on your conscience?”

            “I can’t,” Childers said.     “I’m just the head teller.

      I could lose my job.”

            Beckett shook his head in disappointment and said in a
      sad tone, “I’m sorry, Childers.     I thought I was talking

      with someone with some authority.     I thought you were in

      charge around here.      We’ll just wait until someone who can

      make a decision arrives, no matter how many children will

      die,” he said.     “That okay with you?”

            Childers face turned sour, and he walked away as

      Beckett continued.      “You know, Childers, there comes a time

      when a man is asked to make a life changing decision.       He

      has to answer the call one way or the other.     Some men

      decide not to answer and miss out on what could be their

      destiny.    While others may choose not to follow some rules

      laid down by some corporation a thousand miles away and make

      a decision that will forever change their life.”     Beckett
      took a step closer to Childers and held him at arms length

      by the shoulders.     “Your country is calling, Childers.   The

      little dead boys are calling.     And the little boy that’s

      going to be next is calling for you.”

            Childers’ back straightened, his face flushed with
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                  258


      color again, his arms tightened, and he said, “Follow me.

      But I have to be there as a witness.”

            “Fair enough,” Beckett said and turned to the three men

      and told them to wait.

            “I’ve never been part of a murder case before,”

      Childers said.

            “Your mother would be proud,” Beckett said as he was
      led behind the tellers.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      259




                                      Chapter 26


              Beckett entered the Senator’s office as a young page

      was leaving.    He noticed the kid’s tie was a little off

      center and needed to be straightened.         McAlpin stood behind

      his desk with his back to the door.          He was making some kind

      of adjustment around his waist.        “Evening, Senator,” Beckett

      said.

              “I didn’t hear Janice buzz you in,” he said.

              “It’s after six.      She’s gone home,” he said as he

      approached the desk and tossed the manila envelope on top of

      some pending legislation.

              “What’s that?” the Senator asked.

              “The disk.”

              “The disk,” he asked as he hesitantly held up the
      envelope.

              “Yes, sir.    The disk.”

              “Test results back yet,” the Senator asked.

              “Yes, sir.    No copies have been made.”

              “And your positive.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    260


            “Yes, sir.”

            McAlpin sat down in his thick, worn chair.    “Very

      good.”   He seemed upset as he wiped his tired eyes.

            “What’s wrong, Senator?”

            “Nothing we can’t handle.”

            “What?”

            “That damn hate monger on the radio has stirred up such
      a controversy that the Senate is ready to start hearings

      into the intelligence agencies’ recruitment practices.”

            “You mean...But there’s no way they could know.    How

      could they know?”

            “I don’t know.     Unless this General has some hard data.

       That punk Senator from Florida--the young, idealistic one--

      is the one causing all the trouble.     He doesn’t know how to

      play the game.     Sure he’s making his constituents happy, but

      he’s pissing off everybody up here.”

            “I wonder if the General supplied any information to

      him?” Beckett asked.”

            “Check it out, Beckett.    I don’t want this thing to go

      any farther.    I can’t chance having him show up at that
      hearing with some kind of hard evidence,” the Senator said.

       “Fortunately, there is only one loose end to this little

      faux pas, and that will be taken care of soon enough.”      He

      opened the envelope and peeked inside.     “Have we heard from

      Mallory lately?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      261


            “He’s close,” Beckett said.      “He was headed to the

      Grand Canyon, but I told him to intercept them at the

      school.    It’s only 100 miles from the canyon so I’m sure

      they’ll try for the kid.”

            “Are we sure her kid is at that one?”

            “Positive,” Beckett said.      “And they’re ready for them.

       The building is secure from the ground up.”
            “Very good, Beckett.      You’re becoming quite the leader.

       I always saw it in you.”

            Beckett took pride in his work, and when his boss

      noticed, it warmed him.       “Thank you, sir.   I also gave

      Mallory the information on the school.      He should be there

      in the morning.”

            “Now find out anything you can on this Senator from

      Florida.    Find out if there’s anything we can use against

      him to stop his proceeding with his little witch hunt.

      Nobody can be so clean that they won’t deal, Beckett.          Find

      something, and let’s put this thing to bed.       This time

      tomorrow I want to be free of any loose ends and I want life

      back to normal.”
            “I’m looking forward to that, Senator.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     262




                                    Chapter 27


              “Are we there yet?” Kathryn said over the noise of the

      engine.

              “I was beginning to wonder if you had fallen off back

      there,” Coop said as he leaned into the turn.     It had been a

      while since she stopped squishing him and had learned to

      relax.    They had ridden all night to avoid any traffic or

      hired killers.     And now, on Kathryn’s directions, were

      somewhere in northeast Arizona looking for a town named Sun

      Dial.

              The sun coming up behind them cast long shadows ahead.

       Coop, feeling a little giddy after riding all night, was

      playing little games with the wind and the shadows to keep

      awake.    He imagined the shadow of his hand swatting rocks,
      cans, anything along the road.      Kathryn must have figured

      out what he was doing, because when he waved to his own

      shadow, hers waved back.

              The red-brown earth seemed to pulse, promising life.

      Since the pre-dawn, the smell of the mesquite fires in the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     263


      small villages camouflaged in the hills reminded Coop of the

      villages in Central America.     And from that memory, spurred

      the memory of the boy standing over the bodies of his

      parents.

                               *       *       *

            The school was isolated ten miles outside of       Sun Dial.

       Coop turned off the small highway to an unmarked private
      road Kathryn had shown him and wound his way down the drive,

      switch backing through a thick grove of hardwoods and pines.

       The sharp turns were a common tactic used to prevent

      aggressors from gathering any speed when approaching a

      target.    The government used this practice on in front of

      European bases and embassies during the height of terrorism

      in the mid-eighties.      A series of simple cement barriers,

      like those used in highway construction, placed in the road

      for vehicles to wind through made it impossible for anyone

      on a suicide mission to speed past a checkpoint with a van

      full of dynamite.     The switchbacks also made egress

      difficult.    And that concerned Coop.

            The small, windy road emptied into a pool of parking
      spaces.    Fifty feet from the parking lot lay the four story

      tan brick building that sat alone in a field red rock and

      weeds.    A young man stood guard in a small shack just

      outside the entrance to the school.      Coop stopped the bike

      and balanced it between his legs.     Something didn’t feel
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       264


      right.   He just couldn’t put his finger on it.

            If this evil Senator, as Kathryn would have him

      believe, is after her, he certainly would’ve made

      arrangements to intercept them as they came aboard the

      grounds.    The switchback would’ve been the perfect place.

      They wouldn’t put the children in jeopardy, so they wouldn’t

      try anything inside the school.       If they were waiting to
      attack when they left, they could harm the boy.        Something

      just didn’t add up with this whole plan, and Coop was

      beginning to think Kathryn hadn’t been completely truthful

      with him.

            Kathryn swung her leg over the rear tire and

      dismounted.    “You coming in?”   she asked as she removed her

      football helmet.

            Coop sat for a moment, surveying the area.       “I don’t

      think so,” he said.      “I’d better stay out here.”

            Kathryn took a deep breath.      “Wish me luck,” she said

      and exhaled.    “Five minutes,” she said.    “I’ll be back in

      five minutes.”     She handed the helmet to Coop.

            “I’ll be here,” he said and gave her the thumbs up.
      “Good luck.”    He watched her walk to the guard shack where

      the guard waved her on through.       The guard picked up the

      phone and made a call, presumable announcing her arrival.

                                    *   *     *

            Beckett placed the phone back in its cradle on the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        265


      Senator’s mahogany desk and beamed.          “More good news,

      Senator.”

            “Who was that?” the Senator asked as he rocked back in

      his chair, folding the newspaper in front of him.          The

      Washington Post had reported that a Senate Investigation

      Committee was going to be conducting hearings about Senator

      McAlpin’s involvement in the CIA’s agent recruitment
      practices.

            “The guard, sir.        She’s arrived at the school.”

            “Where’s Mallory?” the Senator asked.

            “He’s in Sun Dial and should be at the school in ten

      minutes.”

            “Is someone with her?”

            “Yes,” Beckett said.

            “Call the Major and tell him to hold them until Mallory

      gets there.”

            “Then?” Beckett asked.

            “Mallory’ll know what to do,” the Senator said.

            “In ten minutes, this’ll be over,” Beckett said.

            “Don’t count on it, son.          We still don’t know who she
      traveling with.”

            “Some schmuck, it looks like.” Beckett said.         “Some

      dumb fucking schmuck.”

                               *          *         *

            Coop walked around his bike for the twenty-seventh time
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     266


      and looked at his watch.      She’d been in there seven minutes,

      and he was getting nervous.      The little hairs on the back of

      his neck had never lied to him before, and today they were

      tell him something was wrong.      Deadly wrong.   He wasted no

      time at the guard shack, he just pushed the boy aside and

      yanked the phone from the wall.

              Inside, the school was decorated like any other school.
       Paintings of war scenes, recruitment posters, OPSEC and

      COMSEC warnings covered the gray walls.      Signs for the

      restroom, written in Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, were

      placed above the doorway to the head.      A pimple-faced boy

      and his tall buddy emerged from the head.      They both wore

      the uniform of the day: dark blue pants and light blue

      shirts decorated with military insignias.      The boys were

      somewhat surprised to see Coop, but continued their

      conversation in Arabic.       Coop could decipher some parts.

      The pimply one had done well in his martial arts class

      earlier, and the tall one was concerned about his calculus

      exam.    The two crossed the hall and ducked into a classroom.

              Coop stopped at the hallway intersection.    To the left
      lay an empty hall, to the right was an empty office.      He was

      about to enter the office when he heard a scream and saw a

      commotion at he end of the hall.      He spun in time to see

      Kathryn being shuffled out of sight.      It looked like she was

      being followed by a group of boys with automatic weapons.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    267


      And approaching him were two kids with AR-15s leveled at

      Coop.    Coop raised his hands in surrender.

              The two boys had the peach fuzz faces of fourteen year

      olds and wore the same uniform as the others.     By the way

      they carried their weapons with such determination and

      familiarity, it was obvious they were very comfortable with

      the Colts.    It was the kind of comfort that can only come
      from years usage.     Coop wondered if they had the same

      confidence in their own abilities.

              As they approached, the pudgy redheaded kid made the

      mistake of letting his muzzle within arms length of Coop.

      If the muzzle comes within reach of any prisoner, the weapon

      becomes fair game.      The prisoner has the opportunity to

      deflect the muzzle toward another guard, hoping the first

      guard will fire in the confusion, or better yet, with one

      clean jerk, snatch the weapon entirely from the guard.        So

      that’s what Coop did.

              Before the chubby redhead could react, Coop snatched

      the muzzle, grabbed the stock, and using his momentum, rifle

      whipped Chubby’s partner across the jaw.     The kid slid
      against the wall to the floor, and Chubby’s eyes grew as big

      as Howitzer rounds.      Coop leveled the weapon on the standing

      boy, who, now, was raising his hands over his head.

              Coop shook his head. “You got too close,” he said.

      “Didn’t they teach you not to get too close?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       268


              The boy nodded.

              “Ever been a hostage before?” Coop asked.

              The boy shook his head.

              “I’ll go easy on you then.” Coop pointed to his jacket.

       “See this jacket?      It’s brand new, and I really don’t want

      to get any blood on it,” he said.       “So don’t try anything.”

              “Yes sir,” the boy’s soft voice managed.
              “Let’s go,” Coop said.

              They followed the hallway to another intersection.        To

      the right, Coop could hear a man shouting orders.       The boy

      led Coop to a thick double door.       Coop cracked the door

      enough to see through.        Inside, Kathryn was surrounded by

      more fourteen year olds with more AR-15s.       Circling the boys

      was a man in his early fifties.       He was shaven bald and

      sported a small mustache.       His muscular arms challenged the

      seams in his short sleeved uniform shirt.       The insignia

      identified him as a Major.       His name tag called him Stearns.

       His voice was low, but Coop could make out most of what he

      was saying.

              “As soon as you left the clinic, we knew you would come
      here.    Though we didn’t expect you quite so soon.”     He

      rested his hand on his side arm, what looked to be a Beretta

      92F, as if making some kind of passive threat.       “We didn’t

      expect you to bring your boyfriend, either,” the Major said.

       He offered her a chair.       “You might as well have a seat
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                  269


      until your boyfriend shows up.”

            “I don’t want to sit,” Kathryn said.

            “I think you’ll be more comfortable seated,” he said.

            “I don’t want--”

            “Sit the hell down!” he belted.

            Coop watched the boys trying their best to look

      intimidating, but they were too young to grimace.     Some
      actually looked like they were having a movement.     And when

      the Major shouted the order for Kathryn to sit, one of

      children started to sit down, weapon and all, right where he

      stood.   Coop waited for his chance when the Major circled

      around the group and had his back to the door.

            “Ms. Tillman,” the Major began in a calm tone as he

      paced, “This school is so secure, it’s worse than a prison.

      Sure you can get in, but it’s tough as hell to get out,” he

      said his voice raising as he spoke.     “You know why?”   When

      she didn’t answer he continued louder than before, “Because

      I’m everywhere.     No one gets past me,” he said.   The Major

      was coming into position.     “I’m always around, staring down

      the lens of the cameras, haunting the halls like a cold fog.
       I am security.     I am God,” he pronounced   “All knowing, all

      seeing, and ever fucking vigilant.”

            “I just want my boy,” she screamed.

            Her scream was enough to make the Major completely turn

      his back on Coop.     Coop busted through the doors and grabbed
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      270


      the Major in a choke hold and pressed the muzzle of the

      weapon to the hairless head.      Coop motioned for a now teary-

      eyed Chubby to join his classmates.

              Children can be trained to kill.    Coop had seen it many

      times.    It occurs in Ireland, Israel, South Africa, and all

      over the United States.       Children take a distant stance on

      killing, as if it really has no effect on them.      All they do
      it pull the trigger.      That’s all.   The bullet does the rest.

       Their young consciences seem to bury the killing as if it

      never happened.     That fact makes them more dangerous than

      adults.

              “Bishop!   You coward,” the Major said unfazed by Coop’s

      hold.    “You’re not fit to stand with your classmates.     Get

      out of formation and quit your crying, or you’ll find

      yourself washed out and join Ross in the in the guard shack

      for the rest of your miserable life.”

              “That’s enough,” Coop said into the Major’s ear.

              “Bishop,” the Major said, “You have betrayed your

      brothers.”

              “That’s enough,” Coop said louder this time.    “Let her
      go,” Coop said to the boys.      “I’m not afraid to use this on

      your Major.”

              “Don’t do it, men,” the Major said.    He turned his head

      a bit to direct his speech to Coop.      “Are you familiar with

      the intricacies of firing squads, sir?”       When Coop didn’t
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         271


      respond, the Major continued.      “In a firing squad, not all

      weapons have the ability to kill.       It’s a way for the

      executioners to deny they had any part in it.”

              “You’re point being, Major?” Coop said.

              “My point being, sir, is that we employ the same theory

      here.    Only a few of the rifles have live rounds in them,

      and Bishop’s is not one of them.”
              Without moving the muzzle from the Major’s head, Coop

      put pressure on the trigger.      “Tell you what, Major, I’ll

      give it a try.     If you’re right, you live, if you’re

      bluffing, you don’t.”

              “I issued the rounds myself.”

              “How do you know he didn’t switch weapons with another

      kid.    You know how boys are always trading things.”

              “It’s against school policy to trade weapons or

      munitions,” he said casually as if he had been talking about

      trading baseball cards.       “You keep the weapon you’re

      issued.”

              “For your sake, you’d better be right, Major.”       Coop

      held his breath and braced for the shot.      The click of the
      firing pin in an empty chamber makes almost no sound.         But

      this time, it seemed to echo through the halls.

              Coop tossed the weapon on the floor behind him,

      releasing his grip on the Major.

              Stearns slowly turned to Coop and said, “You see, sir.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     272


       It was unloaded.”
              “Maybe,” Coop said.    Then as the Major faced him,

      followed with, “But this one’s not.”      He pointed the Major’s

      own Beretta at the bald, muscular leader of small boys.

      “Now, tell them to let the girl go, and put their weapons

      down.”

              The Major nodded, and the boys lowered the rifles.

      Kathryn ran to Coop.

              “And if I hear even one sound from you boys,” Coop

      said.    “I’ll pop his ass.”    He gave Stearns a brisk shove.

      “Let’s go, Major.     We have a boy to pick up.   We’re going on

      a field trip.”

              Three classes down, the Major opened the door.      A young

      instructor in uniform was pacing through the rows of

      uniformed students, all about six years old.      The Russian

      alphabet was displayed over the chalkboard.       “Gdia Krasnia
      Ployshet?” the instructor said.
              “Where’s Red Square?” the class responded.

              “Excellent,” the instructor said.

              All classified facilities, organizations, and missions

      have duress codes.      A duress code is usually a unique

      codeword used in a sentence by the person in jeopardy to

      alert a guard, team member, or someone in authority that all

      is not right.     Someone maybe watching, listening, or holding

      a gun to the person’s back.      “Guitar” is one of the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                          273


      government’s favorites and has become another name for

      duress codes in the agencies.         “Turnkey” is another.

              “No guitars,” Coop whispered into the Major’s ear.

      “Just say...What’s the kid’s name?”

              “Zachary Montoya,” Kathryn replied.

              “Just say ‘I need Zachary Montoya,’” Coop said.

              The Major popped his head in the door and did what he
      was told.    A moment later a small boy with sandy blonde

      crewcut marched out.      He carried his books with him and

      managed to close the door behind him and snap a sharp salute

      to the Major.

              Kathryn dropped to her knees to look at the child.           She

      held the boy at arms length, looking him up and down, then

      drew him in for a hug and began crying.          “It’s you.   It’s

      you,” she said over and over through the tears.

              Still keeping an eye on the Major, Coop lifted the

      boy’s chin and looked into his eyes.          He had the same green

      eyes with the same crying pupils.           Kathryn was hugging him

      so hard, the boy’s face was turning blue.          Her instincts had

      once again taken over.
                                    *   *     *

              Mallory slowed the black rented Lincoln for fiftieth

      time trying to find the secret road leading the goddamn

      geedunk fucking school.       Beckett couldn’t draw a map worth

      shit.    The fairy probably didn’t even know which way north
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         274


      was.    He’d been searching for twenty minutes now and was

      about ready to give up and go for a beer.

                                      *   *   *

              A ruckus at the end of the hall distracted Coop.        The

      kids had picked up their weapons and were now charging.          In

      what seemed like an instant, the boys were standing a yard

      away, the muzzles again on Coop and Kathryn.
              Coop still had control of the Major.      The arrogant son

      of a bitch hadn’t even tried to get away.        It was as though

      he thought he was still in complete control of the

      situation, even with his own gun at his head.

              “They’re trained to shoot the boys who try to leave,”

      the Major said.     Coop had to give him credit, the Major was

      trained well.     He was amazingly calm, and that’s tough when

      someone is smashing the barrel of a gun in your head.

              “You may not care about yourself, Tillman,” Stearns

      said.    “But I know you care about him.      If you give up now,

      the boy will be fine.         He has no idea what’s going on.   It

      was all just a drill, we’ll say.        He’ll never know.”

              Coop looked to Kathryn.      She didn’t know what to do.
      He had to make the call.        “Major,” Coop whispered, still

      pressing the gun into Stearns’s head.        “You made one

      mistake.”

              “I doubt that.   These boys are highly trained.      They

      know exactly what to do.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      275


              “You said it yourself, you are security.    Like a cold

      fog, Major.”

              “You’re goddamn right,” he said.    “Ever fucking

      vigilant.”

              “But without you, there is no security.”    The Major

      didn’t respond as if he knew where Coop was leading.        Coop

      locked his arm around the Major’s neck, applied just enough

      pressure against his larynx, and lowered the gun to his

      back.    “Once you’re gone these lost boys are just that; lost

      boys who’ve got no one to tell them what to do, or how to do

      it.”    The Major struggled under Coop’s strength, but Coop

      held tight.    He could feel Stearns’s Adam’s apple collapse

      as he flexed his biceps.      Just as Stearns ran out air and

      went limp, Coop angled the weapon and fired.       The Major

      slipped from Coop’s grip and slid to the floor, resting on

      his back.

              “C’mon!” he yelled at the boys.    “Who’s next?   You,

      son?” he yelled to the biggest one.       The faces went from

      their attempt at grimace to expressionless and slack.       It

      looked like they were still trying to figure out what had

      just happened.

              The door the classroom sprang open, and the young

      instructor stood confused.     Coop put the gun on him, “Lay

      down, buddy.    On the ground.   Spread eagle.”    The teacher

      hesitated.    “Don’t be a hero,” Coop said.    “I hate heroes.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        276


      They always screw things up.”        The instructor did as he was

      told.

              Coop turned to the boys again, looking another in the

      eye.    “How about you?       Want to join the Major?”   Then to the

      rest he said, “This is the real deal, kids.         A real world

      incident.    I don’t want to hurt any of you.       We’re just

      going to take this boy and go.        That’s all.   So put the
      weapons down, and we’ll be on our way.”        After a what seemed

      like ten minutes of silence, the biggest boy lay down his

      weapon, then the others followed one by one.        “That’s good,

      men.    Very good.”

              The exit was about a hundred yards behind them.       Coop

      grabbed Kathryn and the boy, and backed down the hall,

      keeping an eye on the kids just in case.

              Once around the corner, they ran like hell, with Coop

      practically dragging Kathryn and the boy.        As they

      approached the guard house, the guard was braced, ready for

      their arrival.     But Coop kept walking, pointing the Major’s

      gun at the guard.     “It’s not worth it,” Coop said.      “In ten

      seconds you can be alive, or you could be a stain on the
      concrete.    You make the call.”

              “I can’t let you pass,” the guard said, holding the

      shotgun on them.      Coop could hear the quiver in his voice

      and wished he would drop the gun.        “The Major would have my

      ass,” the guard said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                          277


            “I wouldn’t worry about the Major anymore,” Coop said.

       “He’ll never know.”

            “You killed Stearns?” he said.

            “He was in my way,” Coop explained.          “Just like you.

      Now move.”

            “You killed the Major?” the guard said again.         “You

      killed the fucking Major?        Major Security?    Major God?
      Major Ever Fucking Vigilant?”

            “I see you got the same speech.” Coop said, and by the

      guard’s tone, knew he wasn’t going to shoot.

            “Every day, practically,” he said, shaking his head.

      “Every goddamn day of my miserable life.”

            Coop let him savor the moment of good news.          Then,

      “Well?”

            “Oh, yeah,” the guard said.        “Sorry.”   He lowered the

      gun for them to pass.         “Get the hell out of here.   This

      place will be swarming with people before you know it.”

            Coop straddled the bike and started it.         He picked up

      the little boy and set him near the tank as Kathryn snuggled

      close behind Coop.      She reached around Coop’s waist to hold
      the boy, and Coop didn’t mind a bit.

            As they turned and passed the school, the guard was

      walking across the parking lot away from the school, away

      from the Major.     Away.

            All that lay between the three and a clean escape were
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        278


      the switchbacks.     Coop couldn’t move any faster that ten

      miles an hour and still take the turns.        Going straight

      meant crashing through trees, rocks, and any type of man-

      made device meant to discourage passage.        He had to stick to

      the single lane road.         If those boys carried live rounds,

      there was no doubt the shoulders of the roads were mined.

      He stole a glance to the road’s edge, and an exposed metal
      object caught his eye confirming his suspicions.

              But the hairs on his neck were laying down again, his

      heart was slowing, and his grip on the throttle was

      relaxing.    Kathryn gave him a tight hug, then patted him on

      the shoulder as she tried to say something over the rumble

      of the engine.

              Coop cocked his head toward her, looking away from the

      road for a second.      “What?” he said and cupped his ear.

              Kathryn said something he still couldn’t hear and when

      Coop looked forward again, his reflexes slammed on the

      brakes.    The three on the Harley stood face to face with a

      3000 pound Lincoln.

              Coop waited as Kathryn sat silently.      She was doing
      good.    She was remaining calm under pressure.      Of course she

      had no idea the place was mined.        Coop pushed the bike back

      hoping to get some room, but the Lincoln inched closer.

              Only one way in and one way out.      One way in and one

      way out.    No room to turn around.      No where to run.   One way
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     279


      in and one way out.

              Coop yelled for his passengers to hold on, up-clicked

      twice, and as he let the clutch out sharply, the three

      lunged forward as the bike took off backwards.

              Just as Coop thought, the Lincoln tried to follow,

      leaving the exit open.        So Coop jammed the bike into first,

      lifting the front tire inches off the ground.       He yanked the
      throttle back, and ducked and danced with the car as it

      attempted to block him.        Then just as Coop thought he had

      the opening to the drive, the Lincoln jumped in front of

      him, and Coop’s front tire bounced off the Lincoln’s front

      tire.    Coop had barely enough time to catch Zack from flying

      over the handlebars.

              With the bike and car at a standstill, Coop waited,

      watching for movement inside the car.       The car was

      completely blocking the only way out.       On the other side of

      the car’s hood, lay the switchbacks and open road.        And

      every square inch of the land off the lot was mined, leaving

      the only route of escape through the car.

              Coop lifted Zack from his seat on the gas tank and
      tucked him between Kathryn and him.       He pulled Kathryn’s

      hands across his stomach as tight as he could, locking the

      boy between the two.      He hit the throttles twice, up clicked

      twice and released the clutch.       The force threw the combined

      weight of Kathryn and Zack into him, straining his arms.        As
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       280


      the bike raced backward, gaining speed, Coop knew this was

      his only hope.     He was either going to flip the bike,

      spilling all three onto the ground, or not be able to

      maintain the elevation of the front wheel.      It was something

      he’d never tried before, and hoped it would work.      When the

      bike reached a speed of twenty five miles an hour, Coop had

      to test his theory.
            He slammed on the rear brake, jammed the gear pedal

      down, forcing the bike into first, causing the inertia to

      lift the front wheel off the ground.      He gave the big bike

      enough gas to keep the bike up, riding the wheelie thirty

      yards to the car, aiming for its front tire as the site of

      impact.

            Behind him Kathryn screamed, and Zack held tight.       Coop

      needed as much speed as he could get to make it work.        He

      shifted into second, fighting to keep the wheel up, and the

      bike at a forty five degree angle.

            As he raced toward the car on one wheel, he tensed his

      arms, bracing himself for the impact and the weight of his

      passengers against him.       At thirty miles an hour, the 170
      pounds behind him were going to feel like over a thousand if

      his idea didn’t work.

            The bike punched into the car at just the right angle,

      just at the right place.      The frame, under the engine,

      caught the upper edge of the car’s side, the back tire
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                 281


      bounced off the car’s front tire, sending the rear end up,

      leveling the bike on the hood, and all but stopping the

      momentum.    Coop stiffened under the lurching weight behind

      him as he fought to control their landing.   When the front

      tire hit, he felt the Kathryn’s face against his shoulders,

      and the boy smashing into his lower back.    As the back tire

      hit the ground, he shifted into first.   And when he felt
      Kathryn’s grip tighten again, and knew his cargo was safe.

      He negotiated the winding drive, and found the open highway.

       In the distance he heard an explosion, presumably as the

      Lincoln tried to navigate the exit too fast.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       282




                                     Chapter 28


            “Okay,” Tiffany said.      “Here’s one.    Take the total

      amount of the checks today and divide it by the total number

      of customers today.”

            “Piece of cake,” Dorothy said.        “Five dollars, thirty

      four cents.”

            “All right, smarty pants.      Try this.   Add the total

      number of checks, multiply it by the day of your birthday,

      then divide it by my age, then give me the...what’s that

      where you divide the number in half and you get--”

            “Two?” Dorothy asked.

            “Duh...no.    It’s something else,”

            “Square root?”

            “That’s it.    Divide it by my age and give me the square
      root.”

            “Fourteen point three one five.”

            “My God, dear Jesus,” Tiffany said.        “How do you do

      that?”

            Dorothy shrugged.       “Don’t know,” she said.   “Just can.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    283


       She was setting a BLT down in front of Lester, the trucker

      that come in from Sydney every other week, when she heard

      Tiffany.    “Uh oh.   Look who it is.”

             The thin, little man from the government came in

      adjusting his round glasses, smiling.     Two bigger men--which

      wasn’t really saying much--followed behind him.

             “Good afternoon, Mrs. Halston,” he said.
             “It was,” she replied.

             “Remember me?” he said, full of cheer, in want of her

      money.

             “Yes.   I remember you,” she said void of any emotion.

      “You’re the little boy from the government.”

             “Yes mam,” he said.    “I hope you don’t mind, but we’ve

      come to take another look at the place.”     He handed her a

      folded packet of papers.

             “What’s this?” she asked.

             He held up a finger to stifle her, then nodded to his

      men.   One took out a clipboard, the other a calculator and

      off they went, walking around the diner writing and

      calculating.    “That gives us permission to look around and
      to take a few notes.”

             “Notes for what?”

             “Notes to help us decide whether we want to sell the

      place or just demolish it.”

             “What?” She said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        284


              “We might be able to make more if were to hold a public

      auction of the fixtures.      You know, the sum of the parts is

      greater than the whole.”

              “Then demolish it?    But why?”

              “Why not?” he said.    “It’ll be easier to sell the land

      without the diner.      A developer could put up a nice hotel

      here.    Maybe even a Cracker Barrel.      I love Cracker Barrel.”
              “The hell with Cracker Barrel.     You have no right to my

      land.    I’m trying to raise the money.      I’ve got some time

      left.”

              “Of course you do,” he said.      “And you’ll be able to

      raise a third of a million dollars in a month.        I’m sure of

      it.”

              She didn’t know whether it was his tone or his audacity

      that set her off.     “Now you look here, you little squirt,”

      she said and vaulted over the counter, landing toe to toe

      with the boy.     She was about two inches taller than he.       All

      the diner noise stopped.      Everyone was listening.    “You take

      your papers, take your goons, and get the hell out of my

      diner.    And if you don’t stop harassing me,” she said.
              “You’ll what?” he said smugly, taunting her.

              “Just get the hell out,” she said, trying to regain her

      composure.    “Get out now.”

              “Fine,” he said, nodding to his men.     “But we’ll be

      back.    You can count on that.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       285


            “Thanks for the warning,” she said, opening the glass

      door for them.     “Next time bring a warrant if you want to

      come on this property or I’ll call Sheriff Wiggins on you

      for trespassing.”

            “Don’t you worry, Dorothy,” he called.       “We wouldn’t

      dare do anything against the law.”

            The cowbells thunked as she pulled the door shut.      She
      retied her apron.     It had come loose when she went over the

      counter.

            “Honey, I never seen you move like that before,”

      Tiffany said.     “You were like Wonder Woman back there.”

            Dorothy arched her back, trying to stretch the muscles.

       “I won’t be tomorrow.        My arthritis is going to be

      bothering me for days,” she said and began refilling Earl’s

      coffee.    “I wish this cold weather would go away, and warm

      sunshine would fill my life.”

            “You and me both, sister,” Tiffany said.       “By the way,”

      she said, arranging parsley on a plate.       “Did you see his

      nails?    They were awful.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     286




                                    Chapter 29


            “What the hell happened to Mallory?” the Senator

      yelled, leaning across the mahogany desk, slinging saliva

      across the room, his knuckles turning white under his load

      as he screamed.     “I thought you told me he was going to

      intercept them at the school?      You told me he was going to

      intercept them at the school.      Didn’t you?”

            “Yes sir,” Beckett said from the leather wingback.        He

      was almost out of spitting range of the old man, but the

      manila envelope he held in his lap was quickly spotting from

      the Senator’s sloppy tirade. Lately, with the hearings a day

      away, and the woman still loose, the tongue-lashings had

      become more commonplace and, more often than not, Beckett

      felt as if he should be packing an umbrella during his
      meetings with the Senator.      “They must have driven all

      night,” he offered.      “Stearns said they got there just as

      the first bell sounded.       The Major tried to hold them, but

      the guy she’s with pulled a gun.”

            “Any idea who he is?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       287


              Beckett opened his spit spotted envelope.      “We took

      these from the security cameras at the school.”        He leaned

      forward in the chair and placed the envelope on the desk.

      “This is the tricky part, sir. Lab says--,”

              “Tricky part?    I’m tired of tricky parts.”   McAlpin

      rubbed his eyes with his fists.      “Where’s Mallory now?”

              “Headed to the Grand Canyon,” Beckett said.
              “They still have the kid?”

              “Not sure.   We think they do,” Beckett said adjusting

      himself in the chair.

              “I’m beginning to feel she’s not in this alone.     She’s

      got to have a support network.”      The Senator thought for a

      minute.    “And that’s fine.    Because she can’t hide forever.

       She’ll show up one day, and I don’t care when it is, I’ll

      be waiting for her.      If we don’t get to her, and she fucks

      anything up, she’ll always have to look over her shoulder.”

              Beckett leaned forward in his seat and spoke in a soft

      tone, trying to sound a little more confident than he was.

      “Sir, we’ve recovered everything she’s taken.       The only

      damage she can do now is testify about what she stole.         And
      that’s all hearsay and speculation,” Beckett said and leaned

      back.    “Don’t worry.    We’re going to find her and the kid.”

       Beckett leaned forward again and pushed the envelope closer

      to McAlpin.    “But I still think you need to see this.”

              “What the hell is this?” he said as if it were wasting
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     288


      his time.    He stretched over his belly and opened the

      envelope.

              Beckett let him stare at the picture for a moment

      before saying anything.       “That’s the guy she’s traveling

      with.    He’s the one that pulled the gun on the Stearns.

      It’s a little fuzzy, but they were able to I.D. him.      The

      guy’s name is--,”
              “Cooper Sumner,” McAlpin said.

              “You know him?”

              “Yes,” the Senator said and casually, and, perhaps out

      of frustration, flipped the envelope on the desk.

              “Says here he was a government employee up until a

      couple of years ago.      It gives no reason why he left.”

              “He lost his edge,” the Senator said.    “He went weak.”

       The Senator leaned back in his chair, crossed his hands

      across his broad width and said, “Well, at least that’s what

      I heard.”

              Beckett picked up the envelope and began reading the

      docier.    “It says in here somewhere,” he began, searching

      for an entry.     “Here it is.   It was one of his last
      missions.    He snapped and murdered a whole family.”     He

      fingered down to the last page.      “Last reported as homeless,

      drifting somewhere along the Gulf Coast, in and out of rehab

      centers.”    Beckett shook his head.     “What a fucking loser.”

              “Oh, I don’t think Mr. Sumner is a loser,” McAlpin
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       289


      said.    “Where’d you get that information?”

              “Pulled of the agency’s computer,” Beckett said.

              “Use any special codeword?”

              “No.   Just my password.”

              The Senator said, “That’s what I thought.     That’s just

      the IAA file.”

              “The IAA file?” Beckett asked.     “Never heard of it.”
              “Not even you know everything, Beckett,” the Senator

      said.    “The IAA file, known as the If Anyone Asks files. is

      actually, the Intelligence Agents Attrition file.       That’s

      what we tell other people.       It’s a way for the agencies to

      handle inquiries about former agents from other branches of

      the government or from other agencies,” the Senator said.

      “At first, of course, we vehemently deny that the person

      ever worked for the agency.       Then, we’ll finally concede and

      show them the person’s file.        The little ditty at the end is

      meant to discourage contact.”

              “Who’d want this loser anyway,” Beckett said.

              “It’s all a bunch of bullshit.”     The Senator picked up

      the photo again and stared at it.       “Coop was one of the best
      we ever had.     He was blessed,” he said.    “I guess his

      conscience got to him.        He lives in a huge house on the

      beach and from what I understand, just asked a girl to marry

      him.”

              “How sweet,” Beckett said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      290


              “So what do we do about him?”

              “Sadly,” the Senator said, “the same thing you’re going

      to do with the girl.      And you’d better do it quick.   That

      little punk Senator from Florida is all over my ass with

      these hearings.     He says he’s got enough evidence to end it

      in one day, or drag it on as long as he wants.”

              “It sounds like, sir, he thinks he can either give you
      a quick death or a slow painful one.”      Beckett leaned back

      into his chair.     “But either way, there’s death.”

              “We’re not going down easy, Beckett.    I’ll tell you

      that.    Not easy at all.     I’ll drag these fucking hearings

      out for goddamn years if I have to.       Without that girl, they

      don’t have shit.”

              “Goddamn right, sir,” Beckett said and stood, ready to

      leave.    He picked up the files and stuck them in his

      briefcase.

              “Hold on, Beckett,” the Senator said.    “One more

      thing.”    The Senator stood, facing Beckett and in a grave

      tone, said, “When Mallory calls in, don’t give him Sumner’s

      name.”
              “Why’s that?” Beckett asked.

              “Just don’t,” the Senator said.

              “Sure, Senator,” Beckett said and turned to leave.

              “And, Beckett, there’s something else you need to know

      about Sumner.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       291




                                      Chapter 30


              It was 102 miles of gray asphalt and red hills, and

      little Zachary was loving life.        He kept turning around

      grinning at Coop.       The boy was missing one of his lower

      front teeth, and Coop wondered if the tooth fairy had ever

      visited him at the school.

              It was a story that he had never grown up with and he

      doubted Zachary had either.        He had only heard of it a few

      months ago at Spot’s.         They were all sitting around the bar,

      and someone mentioned the tooth fairy.

              “Tooth fairy?    What the hell’s a tooth fairy?” Coop

      said.

              “Bull shit,” Spot said in amazement.      “You’ve never

      heard of the tooth fairy?        Everyone’s heard of the tooth
      fairy.”

              “Even me,” Anna chimed.

              “What does this tooth fairy do?”      Coop asked.

              “He sneaks--” Spot began.

              “She sneaks, honey,” Anna said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         292


              “I believe it’s a he, Anna.       All tooth fairies are

      he’s.    It’s a fact.”    Spot uncapped Coop’s next beer.

      “Anyway, where was I?         Oh yeah.   He sneaks into your room

      late at night--”

              “If a tooth fairy is going to slip into my room,” Coop

      said, “I’d rather it be a she.”          Coop took a sip of the new

      beer.    “So they sneak into your room and...,”

              “To take your teeth,” Anna said.

              “Why the hell would I want anyone taking my teeth?”

              “Jesus, man.   Where did you grow up?      Mars?”   Spot

      shook his head and wiped the counter under Coop’s beer, then

      got him a coaster.      “He doesn’t take all your teeth,” Spot

      said.    “Just the ones you lost.”

              “In return, he leaves you money,” Anna said.

              “How much?” Coop asked.

              “When I was a kid, it was usually a quarter a tooth.

      But with inflation and all, I’m sure they’re over a buck
      each by now.”     Spot poured himself a beer.      “It probably

      goes up right along with the minimum wage,” he added.

                               *          *        *

              Now, with the broken white line blinking underneath

      him, Coop tried to imagine Major Stearns sneaking in late at

      night and swapping a bloody tooth for a buck or two.          He was

      beginning to realize that he might have a little more in

      common with Zachary than he originally thought.         Though he
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       293


      had enjoyed his childhood, it wasn’t until he went into the

      Naval Academy that Coop realized that he had grown up under

      a different set of rules, values, and beliefs than the rest

      of America he was trained to protect.

            In front of him, Zachary kept turning and beaming.

      Turning and beaming a big one-missing-tooth smile.          Coop had

      given Zachary his helmet, and now with the big helmet
      bobbing on his little blonde head, Coop could really see the

      resemblance of his two passengers.        One, a Chief’s fan, the

      other a Harley man.      And both with the black pupils dripping

      on their jade irises.         They were mother and child, and now

      it was his job to protect them both.        Maybe it was seeing

      the tears in Kathryn’s eyes back at the school, seeing her

      son for the first time.        Maybe it was that his feelings for

      Kathryn had been growing for the past few days.           Whatever it

      was, it made him reach behind him and pat Kathryn on the leg

      in a loving, affectionate way.        He was on his most important

      mission ever and he was not going let them down.

            Coop looked down at Zachary.        He wasn’t beaming

      anymore.    He was grabbing his crotch, mouthing something.
      Coop leaned down to hear.

            “Latrine,” the boy said.        “I’ve got to go.”    It was the

      first words Coop had heard the boy say.

            Coop nodded.    Up ahead stood an huge barrel cactus, its

      thick arms pointing down as if it was shrugging its
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   294


      shoulders.    A road turned off just after it, and Coop

      followed it.    It led them up a the side of a small mountain.

       They had plenty time for a short detour, so he followed the

      road four miles until it abruptly ended at the top of a

      mountain.    Coop kicked the stand down and turned off the

      engine.   The silence was overwhelming.   The slight wind was

      only sound.    In front lay the ridges and valleys of red,
      brown, purple.     It was a part of America he had never seen

      before and it was inspiring.

             “Pit stop,” Coop said, and lifted the boy to the

      ground, whispering, “Watch out for snakes,” into his little

      ear.   Zachary ran to the nearest rock and began.     Coop felt

      Kathryn swing her leg over the bike and caught her just as

      she started after the boy.

             “But he might need me,” she said in protest.

             “I think he’ll do fine,” Coop said.   “He’s managed for

      five years already.”

             Still, they both couldn’t help but watch protectively

      as Zachary relieved himself.    When he finished and turned

      around, Coop and Kathryn averted their eyes like they had
      never looked.     The boy meandered back to the bike eyeing the

      rocks and the bushes, as if hoping something would pop out.

             “Is there a ladies room?”   Kathryn asked.

             “Right there,” Coop said, pointing to a boulder large

      enough to offer total privacy.     But let me check it out
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    295


      first.    They’re could be--”

              “I’ll be fine,” she said bravely and briskly walked to

      the rock.    “I’ve managed too, you know,” she called as she

      rounded the corner.      “And for a lot longer than five years.”

              “But they’re might be--,” he tried, but stopped when he

      saw her step slowly methodically backwards, away from the

      rock.    “Snakes,” he said.   He jumped off the bike and ran
      toward her, looking for a stick.     As he neared her, he could

      hear the rattle.

              “Stop.   You’ll scare it,” she said.   “I don’t want you

      to scare it.”

              “I’m not going to scare it,” he said and approached

      closer.    It was at least a seven foot rattler.

              “It’s going to bite me,” she said in a panic.

              “Can you blame him?” Coop asked under his breath,

      creeping closer, slowly, watching the snake’s eyes.      If

      Kathryn moved a fraction of an inch, the snake would strike.

       He had to preoccupy her.     “How would you feel if you were

      catching some rays in your favorite chair, and somebody came

      up and wanted to pee all over you?”
              But Kathryn moved just enough to make the snake lunge,

      and Coop snatched her from the strike zone.      She landed in

      his arms, and Coop held tight.     Their faces were inches

      apart.    Their eyes close.   She had two drops of pupil in her

      left eye and three in her right.     Her soft, moist lips at
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       296


      the perfect angle for the perfect kiss.       He imagined her

      mouth on his, and wondered if she was thinking the same.

            “Jesus,” she said pulling away.    “You almost ripped my

      arm off.    I don’t think you realize how strong you are.”

            He released his grip.    “Sorry,” he said.     “But it sure

      beats a bite in the ass.”

            She walked back to the bike where Zachary was waiting
      quietly, watching them.

            “How you doing, Zack?” Coop said.

            “Fine, sir.”

            “Are you having fun?”

            “Yes sir,” he checked his watch.       “But it’s almost time

      for flash cards.     I have to practice my Russian.”

            “What time does that start?” Coop asked.

            “Fourteen thirty,” the boy replied.

            Coop leaned to Kathryn’s ear and whispered, “That’s two

      thirty.”

            She playfully smacked his chest, “I know,” she said.

            “Zack, I can help you with that.       What do you say we

      take a breather from the road, and practice sentences pa
      ruskie?”

            “Da,” said the boy.

            “Hadasho,” said Coop.

                               *      *        *

            “...it’s a deal made with body bags.       America is
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    297


      selling all its technology to the Asian counties,” General

      Wright said.     “The same countries that put hundreds of

      thousands of America fighting men in body bags over the

      years.   If you don’t believe me friends, perhaps you’ll

      believe today’s guest, Dr. William J. Huffington, an

      engineer who was recently laid off by one of the big greedy

      techno-companies when he threatened to blow the whistle on
      the shenanigans going on in the pacific rim.     “Tell me, Dr.

      Huffington, what clued you in that we were selling computer

      parts to Vietnam?”

            “Well, General.     I hate to say this--but I’ve got

      nothing to loose--it’s much deeper than that.”

            “Really?”

            “Oh yes.    For years, the American government has been

      subsidizing the commie Vietnamese government.     And with

      NAFTA and GATT, they’ve been sending America jobs overseas

      to the rice fields of that country.     So now hard working,

      tax paying people in Middle America have lost their jobs to

      the same people that killed their fathers, sons, and uncles.

       It’s just not right, General.”
            “They called us crackpots, but look whose shaking their

      head in disgust now.      And we’ll be back.”

            An ad for pocket watches came on, and Dmitri flipped

      the dial off.     This radio-asshole was growing on him, and

      Dmitri had an impulse to pull over at the nearest phone and
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    298


      call the show and give him some real news.     He’d start with

      the joint training exercises in Central America with

      American troops during the seventies when there was a plan

      between the Soviets and America to take over Africa.     From

      Libya to Liberia was going to belong to America, along with

      all of South Africa.      The Soviets were going to have the

      remainder, except for Kenya which would have been a joint
      venture amusement park/nature ride, and that’s what the

      black helicopters were for: to shuffle people to the

      different parts of the park.

              That’s what he would tell that radio-asshole.   He would

      tell him that and then laugh for miles.      It would sure break

      up the boredom.     The trip was so fucking boring, he was

      looking for anything along the road to entertain him.     The

      only thing he saw the least bit entertaining was a couple of

      miles back he had seen a cactus with its arm down, like it

      was shrugging his shoulders.     He remembered laughing at

      that.    Laughing at that more than the asshole on the radio.

       He was a paranoid idiot.     But it was fun listening to him.

       It broke up the monotony of the fucking trip to the Grand
      Canyon.    God, Amerika sucks.

                               *       *       *

              Kathryn watched the two men from a distance as Coop

      practiced language lessons with the boy.     Initially she was

      hesitant about continuing any programs from the school, but
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    299


      since Coop knew the language, this would give her more time

      to figure out how to tell her son the truth.    Coop and

      Zachary were laughing and playing the way boys do.    She

      tried to understand what they were saying but it was mostly

      in Russian.    Whatever it was, it had Zachary laughing almost

      to the point of tears.

            Coop was doing great with her son.    He had a special
      way with people and it came through with her son.    It was as

      if as soon as you met him, you feel as though he’s been your

      friend for life.     It seems he knows everything about you,

      but no matter how long you talk, you still don’t have a clue

      about him.    It was a certain charm he had, and she had been

      taken by it.    She had done everything she could to not pull

      away when they’re faces were inches apart.    She wanted to

      feel his scratchy face with the day’s growth, to kiss his

      smiling chin, feel his arms around her. But she had to wait.

       Until her son was safe, she wasn’t going to add any more

      figures into the equation.

            It had been an incredible act for him to help her, and

      she felt guilty for involving him the way she had.    But
      looking back, there was no way she could have done this

      without him.    Even with the help of Jonas: all the maps, the

      timetables, the help at the bank, the information from the

      clinic, it would have been impossible without Coop.    Had she

      been alone, she knew she would have panicked.    But Coop came
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      300


      through for her, and for that she was thankful.       She

      wondered if the pat on her leg was of any significance, or

      if he was just checking on his golf club.

              Though she had planned for this moment for months, she

      was dreading the next few minutes.       She had everything she

      wanted to say in her head, but somehow she knew it was going

      to come out wrong.      But she had to begin.   “Hey Coop,” she
      called.    “Think I could have a minute with Zachary?”

              Coop looked up from a rock.     “I got some work I can do

      on the bike,” he said.        “Call me if you need me.”   He sent

      the boy to his mother and headed to the bike.

              “Coop!” Kathryn called.     She couldn’t do this alone

      either.    As Coop turned again, Kathryn said, “Could you just

      sit by.    I could use some moral support.”

              Coop smiled, the whiteness of his teeth barely emerging

      from his darkened image.       The sun looked as if it was

      resting on his right shoulder, half-shadowing his chiseled

      face.    The other half glistened with the reflection of the

      sun on sweat and stubble.       He stood before her, towering

      over her, and Kathryn felt the familiar shudders again.          The
      same shudders she had when he saved her at the restaurant,

      when he held her after saving her from the snake, and when

      he patted her on the leg.

              “You’ll do fine,” Coop said.     “But if you’d feel

      better, I’ll stay.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       301


             “Please,” she said and touched his hand.      “Zachary,”

      she called and cleared off a place on the rock across from

      her.   “Come here and sit down.      There’s something we need to

      talk about.”

             “Yes mam,” he said and sat down, his back erect, his

      heels together.      “What would you like to talk about?” he

      said in the most polite tone.        It was almost too polite.
             “I’ve been planning for this day for quite some time,”

      she said.    “You see, that school you go to is for children

      that don’t have parents.      Right?”

             “Yes, mam.”

             “All your friends don’t have a mommy and a daddy.

      Right?” she said and wished she could start over.

             “Yes, mam.    Neither do I.    My parents were killed in a

      car crash on the way to the hospital the day I was born, and

      nobody would adopt me.”

             He said it so matter of fact that listening to him made

      her tear up again.      He was the little boy all alone.   She

      tried to hold back, but couldn’t.       She wiped a tear before

      she could continued.      “Honey,” she said.   “That’s not true.
       You were taken from your mother when you were born.”

             He looked at her puzzled.      “Why didn’t she look for

      me?” the boy asked.

             “Honey,” she began.    “She’s was told you were gone.”

             “Dead?” he asked.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   302


            “Yes,” she said as a tear found the corner of her eye.

      She grabbed his small pale hands.      “Zachary,” she said and

      tried to swallow.     “I’m your mother.”   She waited for a

      response, and it came after a moment of small child

      contemplation.

            “How do you know?” he asked.

            That one threw her.     “Because I’ve tried to find you.
      Ever since I knew you were all right.”

            “How do I know?” the boy asked.

            “Look at my eyes,” she said.     “What do you see?”

            Zachary leaned in.      “You have tears like I do,” he said

      smiling.    “The other kids always made fun of me because of

      my eyes,” he said.      “Did they make fun of you?”

            “When I was your age, yes they did,” she said wiping

      another tear.     “I have them, my father has them and so did

      his mother.”

            Zachary looked into Cooper’s eyes as if to see if his

      were crying, and said, “Are you my father?”

            “No,” he said. “But your such a big strong boy, any

      father would be proud to have you as a son.”      Kathryn
      mouthed a silent thanks to him.

            “Where is my father?” Zachary asked.

            That was another tough one.     She had lost contact with

      Zack’s father, a man she had only known for a short time.

      It would be easy for her to say he died so there was some
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     303


      finality, but she didn’t want to start out her relationship

      with her son with a lie.      But she also didn’t know how to

      explain the mistakes adults make to a six year old.      There

      was no chance the father was ever going to play a role in

      Zack’s life.    She had heard he was married, had four kids, a

      house and a dog.     And it would be completely unfair to open

      Zack to the possibility such rejection if the boy pressed to
      see his father.     Her parenting books my frown upon lying to

      children, but in this case, it was her only choice.      “He

      passed away about two years ago.”

              Zack looked to Coop, then back to Kathryn.   “Do I have

      to go back to school?”

              “Not that one,” she said.   “But eventually, another

      one.”

              “I don’t like my school.    Major Stearns is mean.”

              She pulled him close for a hug.   “Don’t you worry about

      that, buddy.    You never have to see him again.”    She held

      him tight, not letting go.     “There is something else,” she

      said.    “There are some people who are going to be after us.

       So I have to leave you with someone safe.      Someone who will
      take care of you for a few days,” she said.      “Cooper and I

      have to throw the people off course.      We don’t want them

      following you.     But as soon as I get back, from then on,

      it’s going you and me.”

              “What about him?” he said, pointing to Coop.   “Is he
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         304


      coming back with you?”

              “Coop has been very helpful in finding you,” she said,

      dodging the question, as well as her feelings.          “We owe a

      lot to him,” she said and looked over to Coop, lobbing the

      ball into his court.

              “I like him,” Zachary said.      “One hadasho gabareech par

      ruskie.”

              Coop smiled.   “You speak Russian well too, Zachary.”

      He mussed the boy’s tow-head.         “I’ll be around to help for a

      little while,” he said.       “Then we’ll see,” Coop diverted his

      eyes to Kathryn, lobbing the ball right back.

              “I think it’s time we get back on the road,” Kathryn

      said.

              “You’re right,” Coop said standing.        “We’ve got a lot

      of ground to cover.      And I’ve got to find a phone.”

              “We’re burning daylight,” the boy said, looking to Coop

      for approval.

              “We sure are, Harley man,” Coop said and mussed the

      boy’s head again.      “But this time, keep your mouth closed

      and you won’t get so many bugs in it.           And don’t forget to

      wave at all the other bikers.         Even the imports.”

              “Yes, sir,” the boy said.

                               *        *         *

              “Fucking geedunk state.    Nothing here but goddamn

      cactus, sand, and...,” Mallory looked at the landscape,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                 305


      hoping to find something to liven up his trip to the Grand

      Canyon.   “More goddamn cactus and sand.”   He eyed the

      speedometer.    He was topping a hundred.   Though the mine had

      only blown out the left rear tire, the car only had one of

      those geedunk small spares.   And the fucking geedunk spare

      detracted from the Lincoln’s elegance, grace, and power.

            The sign said he had eighty miles to the Grand Canyon
      so he popped in a Tony Bennett CD and sang along.    Hearing

      himself sing always put him at ease.   He eyed the corner of

      the rearview from time to time as he belted out the big

      notes, one time almost drifting off the side of the road.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       306




                                     Chapter 31


            Coop used the small blade of his Swiss Army knife to

      scrape the road dirt trapped beneath his nails as he waited

      for his call to go through.       They had only been on the road

      an hour when he had found a gas station, and now Kathryn and

      Zachary were using the bathroom again, as he waited for Spot

      to pick up the phone.

            “‘Lo,” Spot grumbled into the phone.

            “Wake up you lazy bastard,” Coop said.         It felt good to

      talk to someone from home.

            “Coop?   That you?      I thought you had fallen off the
      edge of the canyon, man.       Where’ve you been?”

            “I fill you in later.       Things are getting a bit hectic.

        I need you to do me a favor.       There’s an aluminum case

      upstairs in my office.        Send it to me.”

            “Ft. Knox is locked, Coop.       I can’t get in there.”

            “Punch 62345 into the keypad.         Send it to the Mail

      Boxes Etc in Grand Canyon.       Tell them to hold it for me.

      Use my Fed Ex number and overnight it.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       307


              “Roger that,” Spot replied.

              “Now,” Coop said, able to relax somewhat.     “How’s the

      cat?”

              “Sorry, man.   She hasn’t turned up yet.”

              “Have you been putting food out?”

              There was a pause on the other end.    “Well, yeah.   I

      guess.”
              “What do you mean, you guess?    Either you have or you

      haven’t.    Which is it?”

              “I put some out the first week, but she never came

      around.    I told you that.”

              “Have you put any out since?”

              “No.”

              “Jesus, Spot,” he said.   “I’ll get Anna to take care of

      it.”

              There was another pause, a little longer than the

      first.    “That’s going to be kind of hard, Coop,” Spot said.

       “She caught me with Susan Chang.       Anna was so mad she threw

      grits on me and stormed out the door.       I think she went home

      to Hungary.     Nobody’s seen her since.”   His voice dropped to
      almost a whisper.      “Man, I miss her so bad.    I don’t know

      what to do.”

              “Hang in there, Spot.   She’ll turn up.”

              “I hope so.    But if she doesn’t, I’m going to do

      exactly what you did.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     308


              “What’s that?” Coop asked.

              “Swear off girls.     From now on, man, just like you, I’m

      swearing off girls.”

              He looked over to Kathryn walking back to the bike with

      her son.    She gave him a wave and a wink, almost as if she

      were listening to the conversation, trying to torment him.

      “I said that?” Coop asked.        “Are you sure?”
              “Yeah.    At the bar.   Just before you took off.”

              “I’m having a hard time remembering that,” Coop said.

      “Look, I’d better go.”

              “I’ll send the package out today,” Spot said.     “Don’t

      worry.    It’ll be there.”

              “Thanks,” Coop said.     And just as he hung up the phone,

      “Spot?”

              “Yeah?”

              He watched Kathryn, kneeling, talking to Zachary eye to

      eye.    With her hair fixed, and in the flattering light of

      setting sun, she looked like a cross between a supermodel

      and a supermom.      “Did I swear them off forever?” Coop asked.
              “Forever,” Spot replied.

              “Look.    In the future, don’t let me make anymore life

      changing decisions after more than six beers.”

              “Don’t worry, man.      I didn’t take you seriously,” Spot

      said.

              Coop hung up the phone and walked back to his bike.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      309


      Kathryn straightened as he approached.

             “Everything okay?” she asked.

             “My cat’s starving to death, and Spot’s fiancé left

      him.   Other than that, everything’s fine.”

             “Spot?   That’s an odd name.   How’d he get it?”

             Coop looked at the boy then to Kathryn.    “I’ll tell you

      later.”    He looked at the setting sun.    “You need to make
      your call so we can get outta here.”

             “We’re burning daylight,” Zachary said.

             “I’ll just be a minute,” she said, leaning down to kiss

      the boy’s cheek.     She walked to the phone, and Coop for the

      first time noticed her walk away.      She had slim, well shaped

      hips, and he wondered what her calves looked like.        Calves

      make the legs.     A perfect set of calves could...He felt a

      tug on his jacket and looked down.

             “Yes?” he said.

             “Where are we going from here?” the boy asked.

             “Your mom is getting directions,” he said, running an

      open hand against the back of the boys head where his

      military cut was the shortest, feeling the bristles ping
      against his palm.     It was one of the best parts of a

      crewcut.    “How are you feeling about all this?” Coop said.

             “What do you mean, sir?”

             “This adjustment.”

             The boy shuffled his feet.     “All right, I guess.   I
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      310


      think it will be fun to have a mom.       None of my other

      friends do,” the boy said.       “Do you?”

             Coop shook his head.

             “Where’s your mom?”

             “I never had one.”

             “You can borrow mine,” he said as if it were done every

      day.
             “Thanks,” Coop said.      He might just take the kid up on

      his offer.

             “What about your dad?”

             Coop shrugged.

             “I don’t have a dad either.     I have a mother, but not a

      father.   What do father’s do?” Zachary asked.

             Coop watched Kathryn on the phone.      She was writing

      direction on a piece of paper, and intermittently shaking

      the ink to the bottom of the pen.       “Fathers throw the ball

      with you.      They teach you to run faster.   They help you

      build things.”

             “Like a coach?”

             “Yes.    But much more.   They also influence how you grow
      up, and how you treat others.       They teach you discipline,

      respect, and honor.”

             “I learned all that in school.”

             “I’m sure you did.     But it’s different coming from a

      father.   Fathers will help you shape your life, shape who
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       311


      you are.”

            The boy was silent, off in thought for a few moments,

      then said, “I wish I had a father.”

            “I know how you feel,” Coop said.         Coop looked up and

      saw Kathryn coming back from the phone, kicking up small

      tufts of sand as she walked--skipped, actually.         She was

      smiling.    “What are you so happy about?” Coop said.
            “It’s all set.     We should be there in an hour.”

            “Where?”

            She handed him her chicken scratch directions and said,

      “I don’t have a clue.         Maybe you can figure it out.”

                               *          *       *

            She was right.     It took just over an hour to get to the

      drop off.    A light blue van waited at the intersection in

      the middle of the desert.        There were no cars, no buildings,

      no phones.    Just a van.      And now a motorcycle.

            Coop stopped the bike 100 yards from the van and left

      the engine idling.      “Are you sure you want to do this?” he

      said over his shoulder.

            She nodded.    “These people helped me get this far.        I
      can’t turn back now.      It’s the only safe thing to do.”

            “Can’t you go with them?” Coop said.

            “Not yet,” she said, as Coop turned off the bike,

      leaving the headlight shining in the falling evening.         Coop

      lifted Zachary down, and felt Kathryn get off.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        312


              “I have to lead them away from Zack.      They’ll follow

      us,” she said, “thinking we still have him.        And I’ll catch

      up with Zack in a few days.”        She grabbed her son’s small

      hand.    “It’s time to go, Zack,” she said.      “Say goodbye to

      Coop.”

              “Goodbye, sir,” he said, shaking his hand free from his

      mom’s grip and offering it to Coop.
              “Goodbye, Zachary,” he said taking the hand.      The boy’s

      firm handshake showed promise.

              “I wish I had a father just like you,” Zachary said.

              He had no idea what to say, but the boy waited for a

      response.    Finally, Coop said, “And I wish I had a son just

      like you.”    Coop leaned over and hugged him.

              Coop watched as his Chief’s fan and Harley man strode

      the dirt road to the van.        Kathryn knelt, gave the boy a

      long hug, then stood.         The sliding door of the van opened,

      and the boy turned around.        He looked at the van, then to

      his mother, then to van, then jumped into his mother’s arms.

      Kathryn held tight.      Finally the mother let go, and the boy

      climbed into the van and waved goodbye.
              The door slid shut, the engine started, and the van

      slipped past him on the left, leaving a small trail of dust

      in the red glare of the taillights.        Kathryn stood where she

      left her son, watching the van turn onto the main road.

      Coop swung his leg over the bike and walked to her.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       313


              She watched through tears, as the van wound through the

      desert roads, fading in the darkness.        Coop wrapped his arms

      around her, and Kathryn responded, holding tightly, crying

      into his chest.     He stroked her soft hair.     “Everything is

      going to be all right,” he said.

              “I know,” she said between sniffles.      “I just can’t

      help it.    I don’t know whether I’m sad or happy.      I can’t
      believe it’s really happened, and that I’ve gone five years

      without him.”

              “You’ve got a lifetime ahead of you now.”

              “I know, but if feel like I’ve missed so much,” she

      said.

              “You have,” he said.      “You missed dirty diapers and

      three a.m. feedings.      You missed the terrible two’s.    You

      missed signing him up years in advanced for some pretentious

      preschool.”

              She managed a sniffle-laugh.      “Very funny,” she said,

      looking up at him, still in his arms, this time not trying

      to pull away.     Her lips were inches from his.

              In the light from the bike, he could see the splash of
      black in her eyes, the delicate lines in her face, the

      fullness of her lips.         She felt right against him as if she

      were an a vital appendage or external organ he had been

      missing.    They fit together like a puzzle.      Every other

      woman he had been with had been either too tall, too short,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      314


      too bony.    Kathryn was the right size, right shape, right

      mind.    But he remembered the promise Spot was so kind to

      remind him of--a six beer promise.     But six beer promises

      don’t count.

              Coop cradled her face in his hands.   Her cheeks were

      wet from the tears.      He lifted her chin slightly, leaned and

      met her lips.     She responded delicately at first, then fell
      into her passion.       Gabrielle had never kissed him so fully

      and so intensely.     He hadn’t been kissed like that

      in...Hell, he’d never been kissed like that.       The motions

      had been there before, but he’d never had the tingling down

      the spine, the sensation shooting off in a hundred

      directions, following some forgotten nerve pathways that led

      to parts of him that had, until that moment, never been

      stimulated.

              A coyote howled nearby, and Kathryn stiffened, breaking

      off the kiss.     “What was that?”

              Coop still leaning, his eyes still halfway closed,

      said, “A coyote.”     He pulled her back into his arms.   “Now,

      where were we?”
              She spoke in a playfully romantic voice.    “I think we

      were about to--,”     The coyote howled again, and Kathryn

      broke free.    “It sounds so close.”

              “Oh they’re far away,” Coop tried.    “Far far away.     The

      sound carries out here in the desert.     Didn’t you know
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      315


      that?”

              “No.   I didn’t,” she said just as the coyote howled

      again.    This time another joined him in his serenade to the

      moon.    “There’s two of them,” she shrieked, frightened as if

      she had just seen a couple of Cujos circling.         “Can we go?”

      she asked.     “I’m getting a little scared.”

              “They’re just scavengers.     Like buzzards with four
      legs.    They’re not going to bother you.”

              “I don’t care,” she said flatly.       “They’re scaring me.

        They sound like they’re everywhere.”

              He took her by the hand and led her through the

      imaginary packs of wild dogs to the bike.         “C’mon,” he said.

       “It’s been a long day.       We’ve got another hour to go before

      we stop for the night.”

              “Are there going to be coyotes?”

              “I hope not,” he said and started the bike.      He didn’t

      want any interruptions.

                               *        *        *

              Coop found a coyote free campsite just where the man at

      the gas station ten miles back told him he would.
              “Are there coyotes at this place?” Coop had asked when

      had gone inside to pay for the gas.

              “There’s thousands of them,” the man had said.

      “They’re everywhere.      Hell, you can’t walk ten feet without

      seeing coyote around here.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      316


              “But she,” Coop began to explain, pointing over his

      shoulder to Kathryn outside at the bike, “she gets a little

      nervous.”

              “Hell, they ain’t gonna bother nobody.    They eat the

      dead stuff.    Like roadkill.   Cats, dogs, stuff like that,”

      he said and looked past Coop as if something caught his eye.

       The bell over the door clanged and the man continued, “I’m
      telling you, mister, there ain’t no coyotes ‘round here.         I

      don’t care what you think you heard.       They ain’t no coyotes!

       Been living here for seventy two years and never seen no

      coyotes.    They been dead for over a hundred years.    See that

      picture over there on the wall?     That’s my grandfather.

      Those is coyotes he killed.     The last five left in these

      parts.”

              “Then what’s all that howling?” Kathryn said.

              “Howling?” the man asked as a coyote just outside the

      back door wailed.     “What howling?”    The man thought for a

      minute, then said, “You must mean the when the wind blows

      though the mesquite trees.      It makes an awful howling sound,

      like the coyotes used to make.”
              “Mesquite trees?” Kathryn asked.

              “You know.   Like what they cook food over,” the man

      said.    “Everybody cooks with Mesquite ‘round here.    Have you

      ever had a thick steak cook slowly over a Mesquite fire?”

              “Once, I think,” Kathryn said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     317


            “It’s the only way to cook,” he said.

            “So there’s no coyotes?” she asked.

            “None,” he said.

            “At all?” she asked.

            “Coyote gone,” the man said.    “Bye bye.”   He reached

      behind the counter into the long cooler and took out three

      Cokes.   “Soda pop?” the man offered.    They all took one, and
      the man said, “So you kids on your honeymoon?”

            “We’re not married,” Kathryn said.

            “Not married?     Living in sin, then?” he said sipping

      his Coke.

            “No,” Coop said.

            “Boyfriend-girlfriend?” the man asked.

            “Nope,” Kathryn said.

            “That’s odd,” the old guy said.    “You two look like

      you’re together.”

            Coop didn’t quite know how to respond.    Kathryn wasn’t

      saying anything either.

            “Not like this other couple in here earlier,” he

      continued.    “Ohhh, she was yelling at him something fierce,
      and he came in mumbling something foreign.”

            “Foreign?” Coop asked.    “What do you mean?”

            “You know, like from another country.”

            “I know that.     I mean what did it sound like.   Were

      they Japanese, Chinese, Russian?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       318


             “He wasn’t a jap, or chinaman.      He looked...you know

      foreign.      Like from Europe.”

             “What about her?”

             “I don’t know.    She did most of her yelling from the

      van.   I didn’t see her much.”       The man shifted his stance

      and raised an eyebrow. “Why all the interest in these

      people?”
             “You brought them up,” Coop retorted.

             “Sure I did.    But you’s the one asking all the

      questions.     Now what’s going on?”

             Coop looked him straight in the eye and said, “You

      fought in the big war didn’t you?”

             “Sure did.”

             “You’re a patriot.      Right?”

             “Damn right,” he said.

             “I guess I can trust you then.”      Coop looked around the

      room to see if any unauthorized personnel were listening in.

       “They’re communists, sir,” he said in a very serious tone.

       “And we’ve been sent by the federal government to track

      them down.     Do you know where they were headed.”
             “No.    They didn’t say.”

             “What’d they buy?” Coop said.

             “Let’s see,” he said, looking around the store.      “Gas.

      A couple of soda pops.        A bag of Cheetos--baked, not fried.

       And a throw away camera.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      319


            “And you never saw the girl?”

            “No.   She stayed in the van.     Didn’t even get out to

      pee,” he said, then looked to Kathryn.       “Sorry, mam.”

            “Thank you, sir,” Coop said.      “Again, you’ve done your

      country proud.”

            Now in the coyote-free camp site, Coop lay next to

      Kathryn, propped up on an elbow.       A zillion stars looked
      down upon them, reminding Coop of the bioluminescence in the

      night waters of the gulf.       The wind through the mesquite

      eventually stopped, and there was only the silence of the

      sage rustling.     The air was more relaxed.    Passion had given

      way to reflection.

            “Did that sound like your guy?”

            “Dmitri?” he said.      “It’s him.”

            “But I thought you--”

            “He must’ve been wearing a vest,” Coop said.

            “Was that guy talking about his wife?”

            “Chang,” he said.       “Turns out, I’ve been set up.    She’s

      been watching me for about six months.       They’ve known

      exactly where I’ve been and exactly where I’m going.          Only
      Chang and Spot knew that.”

            “Do you think they know where we are now?”

            “No.   They couldn’t find us here,” he said.     “We took

      so many back roads to get here and I made sure no one was

      following us.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       320


             “What about the cops?”

             “Why would the cops be after us?”

             “You killed the Major.”

             “I didn’t kill him,” Coop said.    “I just cut off his

      air until he passed out.      When I felt him go limp, I fired

      the gun into the wall just to scare the kids.”

             Kathryn lay on her back far enough away, but not too
      far.   Coop felt her stray foot against his.     Hotels had

      become a luxurious risk they couldn’t afford to take.       A

      thick ground-cloth and a blanket of stars were all they had,

      and she didn’t seem to mind.     She hadn’t complained once,

      and he liked that.

             “So the Major’s alive?”

             “He’s fine,” Coop said and moved a little closer to

      her.   “Are you going to tell me why they had your son?”

             She rolled up to an elbow to face him.      “You have to

      trust me.    I can’t tell you now,” she said, looking through

      him.   “Maybe in a year or two.    But not now.”

             This was not the way he usually worked.     But something

      inside told him she needed his kind of help on her terms.
      So far, they’d only withdrawn her boy from school.       And

      since the Major was the aggressor, Coop was justified in

      pulling the weapon.      There was one question that lingered in

      Coop’s mind, but she wouldn’t tell him how the boy came to

      be at the school.     Over all the years, during the many
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       321


      missions, he had learned that trust is an honor bestowed

      upon someone.     Most times trust is earned, but sometimes,

      like a battlefield commission, trust is thrust upon person.

       Coop knew who to trust and how to trust.       He trusted

      Kathryn and he trusted Kathryn’s reasons for not telling him

      everything.    His instincts told him he was right.     And his

      instincts had kept him alive for thirty five years.       Now,
      however, his instincts were screaming at him about Dmitri.

            “So,” Kathryn said, scooting closer to him.       “You know

      Dmitri’s wife?”

            “Dr. Susan Chang,” he said.       It still didn’t seem to

      make sense.    But it had to be her.

            “Are you positive?” she asked.

            “It all adds up.” he said.       “Spot’s the only one who

      knew where I was heading.       And Chang was always asking for

      updates about my trip.        Hell, she even got me to send her a

      postcard.”

            “Were you two..?”

            Coop laughed and said, “I’m not as easy as I look, you

      know.”
            “You’re not?” she said, inching even closer.       “That’s a

      shame.”   She reached up for his face, sliding her hand

      against his chin.     “I like the way you chin smiles.    It

      always makes you look happy.”

            “I’ve had reason to be lately,” he said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                  322


            “Lately?” she said, her finger running the outline of

      his face.    “How so?”

            “I’m enjoying the trip,” he said in soft voice.    “You

      know, the scenery, the attractions.”     He found her hip and

      pulled her closer.

            “Me too,” she said.     “Especially the attractions,” she

      said and leaned to meet his lips.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       323




                                    Chapter 32


            Beckett sat in the wing chair looking at his watch.         He

      had been sitting there for three hours listening to the

      Senator ramble on about the hearings.        Beckett had never

      seen him this nervous before. The hearings started tomorrow

      at nine, and McAlpin, had to listen to accusations levied

      against him by General Wright and Senator Varela on issues

      concerning Operation Prodigy.

            “What the hell did you find out on that punk Senator?”

            “Nothing, sir.     Guy’s a fucking Boy Scout.”

            “For Christ sake, Beckett, the man’s got to have some

      kind of dirt,” the Senator said.      “Couldn’t you find

      somebody who’s seen him do drugs or something?”

            Beckett looked the rug and shook his head.       He noticed
      a small hole in the rug where the Senator had tried to fix

      an errant thread.     “No sir.   Nothing.”

            “What about that damn talk show host.       I’ll bet he’s

      got something up his sleeve.      I know it,” the Senator said.

            “What could he have?” Beckett said.       “We’ve got the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      324


      files she stole from the clinic.       The girl’s not going to

      make it--not with Mallory on the job.       And aside from

      someone from the project strolling down the aisle, claiming

      they were part of it, we’re safe.       They can’t implicate you

      on hearsay,” Beckett said standing, trying to get the blood

      flowing to his bottom.        “They don’t have a chance in hell,”

      he said.
            “General Wright knows a lot more than he’s letting on,

      son,” McAlpin said, his hands in prayer, his chins resting

      on his thumbs.     “I can feel it.    And I think that fine

      gentleman from Florida knows it.       That’s why he’s pushing

      for a full senate hearing.”

            “It’s not going to happen, Senator.       This thing will be

      over and done with in a week, and everything will be back to

      normal.”

            “It better be, Beckett.       Because if I go down, you know

      whose coming along for the ride.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    325




                                    Chapter 33


            The morning sun peeked at the horizon as if trying to

      decide to rise or sleep in.      The dim light was enough to

      wake up Cooper, and as his eyes slowly opened, he could see

      the last few stars to the west.      The Pleiades were nowhere

      in sight.    Kathryn lay against him, her knee resting on his

      hip, her head cradled in his arm.      The sleeping bag he had

      put over her had been tossed aside in her restless sleep.

      As he slipped away from her, he pulled the bag back onto her

      bare shoulders.

            He fished around the daypack for a clean underwear and

      fresh jeans, and opened the bottle of water.     After dabbing

      deodorant, brushing his teeth, and washing his face, he

      slipped on a clean shirt.      It smelled clean anyway.
            He dried his face, lowered the towel from his eyes and

      turned around to where he had been sleeping.     Twenty feet

      past the ground cloth, twenty feet from where Kathryn lay

      curled up under the sleeping bag, was the edge of the earth.

            The sun rose above the rim, calling the long, deep
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    326


      shadows home from the west side of the canyon.     In the

      darkness, he had no idea how close they were to the rim of

      the Canyon.    The man at the store said they would be close,

      but Coop had no idea he had meant this close.     Coop walked

      over to the edge and looked down.

              “I never realized how breathtaking this was,” Kathryn

      said.    Coop hadn’t heard her approach.   She was wearing one
      of his shirts.     She wrapped her arms around him as he turned

      to her.    “Makes you wish you had a bigger vocabulary just so

      you could describe it.”

              He leaned in for a good morning kiss.   “How are you

      feeling?” he asked.

              “Contented,” she said smiling.   “How about you?”

              He laughed and said, “I wish I had a bigger vocabulary

      to describe it.”     He went to the bike and took a Diet Coke

      from the bag of supplies he had bought the night before from

      the old man, and offered it to her.      “I know it’s not

      coffee, but it might do for awhile.”

              “It’ll do fine,” she said.

              “There’s also some bottled water if you want to wash
      up.”    He unfastened the golf club, and dug a bag of balls

      from his day pack.      He took a few practice swings with the

      Calloway Titanium Big Bertha driver.

              “Is that why you so desperately had to come to the

      Grand Canyon?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      327


            “Every man’s got to have a dream,” he said and pushed a

      tee into the dirt.      “The Mayan warriors used to take a

      crooked stick and climb to the top of their pyramids and hit

      rocks to drive away the evil spirits.”

            “Is that what you’re trying to do?”

            Coop shrugged.     “Maybe.”

            “I’m not one of your spirits, am I?” she asked.
            “Not yet,” he said and placed a ball on the tee,

      thought for a second, then tossed the ball to her.         “Here.

      That one’s you.     If you make the transition to the evil

      spirt level, I’ll ask for it back.”        Coop set another

      Titleist on the tee.

            “Which one is that?” she asked.

            “We’ll call him Dmitri,” he said.        “And we’re going to

      knock the shit out of him.”        Coop brought the club back,

      keeping his left arm straight, then made contact with the

      ball, launching Dmitri into the air a thousand yards.         Coop

      watched as long as he could keep his eye on it.         It rose for

      about twelve seconds, then started it’s descent into the

      canyon below, falling another twenty seconds before it
      drifted out of sight.         He set up another.   “You want to try

      one?” he asked.     “It’s very therapeutic.”

            “No thanks.    All my problems have been solved.”

            The first of the sight-seeing helicopters approached as

      he angled the next one to the right, falling short behind a
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      328


      boulder the size of a car.

            “The helicopter distracted you,” Kathryn said.         “Try it

      again.”

            When the chopper passed, Coop set Gabrielle on the tee

       and sent her into the stratosphere, giving it a record hang

      time of 45 seconds before she flew out of sight.

            “Get the binoculars,” Kathryn shouted.       “I think it
      landed on the other side.”

            Coop hit almost a dozen more before stopping.       He felt

      he was holding her from her son, so he left the last three

      balls for another time.       He noticed she was already dressed

      and had their little campsite packed.       “I’ll get the bike

      ready and we’ll get out of here,” he said.       “We’ve got

      another long day ahead.”

            “Hit the rest of your balls,” she said.       “This is what

      you came here for.”

            “You sure?”

            “Positive,” she replied.

            Coop wasted no time setting up another ball.       A

      helicopter was touring the middle of the canyon.       “Watch
      this,” he said and swung, driving the ball across the canyon

      toward the helicopter.        They watched as ball fell out of

      range.    “Think I hit them?”

            “You nailed it, Coop.       I’m surprised they’re not

      bailing out.”     She said it as if she were pretending to be
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      329


      his biggest fan.     Coop didn’t mind her tone.

              He placed another ball on the tee.   “Except for yours,

      this is the last one.”

              “Last evil spirit or last ball?” she asked.

              “Last ball,” he said.   “Far too many spirits for one

      morning.”

              “Better make it a good one,” Kathryn said.    “Send it
      across.”

              Coop reared back, swung and hit the ball harder than

      any of the others.      No doubt about it; this one was going to

      the other side.     It was the best he had ever hit a ball.      It

      felt so right, as if it could sail into Mexico.       But just as

      he found it and focused on the white ball, it dropped.      It

      just dropped straight down as if something was pulling it to

      the floor below, or as if a strong wind came from above was

      pushing it down, defying all laws of physics.

              Then a muffled sound came from the edge of the canyon,

      and before it register with Coop, a helicopter lifted above

      the rim.    A man with long blonde hair stepped out onto the

      rail and began spraying the ground with automatic weapon
      fire.

              Coop dove onto Kathryn, knocking her to the ground.      He

      dragged her to the other side of the bike, letting go of her

      hand long enough to snatch his daypack.      He grabbed her and

      darted behind a boulder and began firing.     But Kathryn lost
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       330


      her grip and fell by the bike.

            Coop first went for the shooter to shake him up, and

      when the guy ducked inside the chopper, he took aim at the

      pilot and squeezed off five rounds.        Kathryn still lay prone

      by the bike, eyes closed, hands over her ears.

            “Jesus, Kathryn,” Coop yelled, as he changed clips.

      “Not behind the bike!”
            “I’m not moving,” she yelled back.

            “Get the hell away from the bike!” he said and darted

      out, snatched her and drug her to the safety of the rock,

      and continued firing.         “Never take cover behind a Harley,”

      he said.    “Never.”

            He had only brought four clips and was on his second

      one when he caught the shooter in the arm.        The blonde

      ducked into chopper again, and Coop fired off four quick

      rounds into the glass in front of the pilot.        One of them

      must have struck because the helicopter began to auto

      rotate.    Coop instinctively pulled Kathryn from the ground

      and almost threw her on the bike.        The Harley started

      without problem, and they escaped just as the helicopter
      spun to the ground.      A few seconds later, the explosion

      almost knocked them off the bike.

                               *          *       *

            “Fucking geedunk Bell helicopters,” Mallory said,

      pushing himself off the ground, the wreckage in flames
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       331


      behind him.    He found his weapon just at the edge of the

      wreckage.    The pilot lay in a heap ten yards away.      “Hey,

      you alive?” Mallory called.        “Hey, Steve fucking Canyon,” he

      said walking over, feeling his own flesh wound.        It was at

      the base of the deltoid and would heal in a few days.

      Fortunately, it was his left arm, so drinking a beer

      wouldn’t be hampered.         He had been shot before, and this one
      was no big deal.     “I’m talking to you,” he said to the lump

      of pilot.    He nudged him with his foot but there was no

      response. “Fucking geedunk local pilot,” he said.        “Serves

      you right.    You can’t even take a hit, you fucking geedunk

      mother fucker.”     He rolled him over, and just to the left of

      center of the pilot’s forehead was a hole.        “Nice shot,”

      Mallory said.     “I like this guy, whoever the hell he is.”

              He policed the site the best he could for any evidence

      linking him to the wreckage and got his bearings.        He was

      ten miles east from the geedunk’s helo pad, and it was a

      nice morning for a run, so he shouldered his weapon and

      lighted out for the cool air conditioned comfort of his

      rented Lincoln.
              As he ran, he went over everything that had just

      happened.    The girl’s face he knew.      But the guy’s he wasn’t

      sure.    It was as if he had seen him before but couldn’t

      remember where.     He was out of context.     And he was too far

      away to I.D..     Something about him was familiar, he just
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                         332


      couldn’t put his finger on it.          He searched his memory,

      closing his eyes from time to time to concentrate.          Closing

      his eyes until he tripped and fell to the ground.

             “Geedunk fucking rock,” he said the melon size boulder

      as he picked himself up.

                               *          *        *

             Coop cruised through the strip mall parking lot,
      checking the front and back before going into the Mailboxes

      Etc.   It was still early, and he doubted his package had

      arrived.    But he checked anyway.

             “Not here,” the teenage clerk said.

             “What about Fed Ex?    They delivered anything yet?”

             “Yeah.   Everything’s here.”

             “Shit,” Coop said, pounding the counter.        “I told him

      to send it Fed Ex.      Not UPS.”

             “What a dipshit,” the clerk said.         “UPS doesn’t get

      here until two.     Sometimes later.      Nobody sends anything

      overnight UPS unless they want it in a week.”

             “I’ll come back for it,” Coop said.

             “You do that,” the clerk said.
             Kathryn was still sitting on the bike when he returned.

      “Think it’s safe to eat?” she asked.

             Coop looked around the parking lot, pretending not to

      see the diner directly in front of him with the big neon

      sign advertising breakfast 24 hours a day.          He was starving
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       333


      but there was no time for food.       No time for waitresses.     No

      time for crowds.     “I don’t see one,” he said.    “Better move

      on.”   And he got back on the bike.

             “What about that place right over there,” she said.

             “Where?”

             “There,” she said, pointing frantically.

             The persuasive smell of bacon wafted toward him on the
      light breeze.     Maybe he shouldn’t be so hasty.    After all,

      he did have to wait for the package.       And he bet if they sat

      in the back, by an exit door, they’d be safe.       And his

      stomach was growling to be fed.

             They placed their orders with the big-haired waitress,

      and over coffee he said, “I think I know that guy back

      there.”

             “Who is he?” she said, stirring in two sugars.

             “I don’t know.    I could have sworn I’ve seen him

      somewhere before.      But he was so far away, I just couldn’t

      tell.”

             “Concentrate.    You’ll figure it out.”    She clinked her

      spoon against her mug.        “Do you think he made it?”
             “Doubt it,” he said.      “He may have survived the

      landing, but he couldn’t have survived the explosion.”

             “Do you think they’ll send out someone else?” she

      asked.

             In a low, apologetic tone, he said, “Yeah.      I’m sure
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                  334


      they will.”

            “Is it ever going to stop?” she whispered.

            “I don’t know,” he said.   “Not until one of you are

      dead.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “It probably won’t stop until either you, or whoever is

      sending these guys after you, is dead.”
            She stirred her coffee again.    It must help her relax

      because she stirred it for five minutes.    Stirring and

      clinking.    Stirring and clinking.   “So those are my

      options?” she asked.

            “So far.” Coop said and sipped his coffee.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    335




                                      Chapter 34


            The Senator from Wyoming called the hearing to order as

      Beckett took his seat behind the Senator McAlpin.        The room

      was packed with reporters, all there to meek out what little

      story there would be, hoping to take the tiny sound bites

      and turn them into tomorrow’s headlines.        Varela, the

      squinty eyed Senator from Florida, was four seats to the

      McAlpin’s right.

            “I would like to thank you all for coming this morning.

       It is now ten o’clock and time to begin the hearings,”

      Senator Cranely said.         “In question today are General

      Wright’s and Senator Varela’s allegations of recruitment

      practices by the Intelligence Community, along with numerous

      infringements upon the constitution as well as their
      respective charters.      It will be our task, gentleman, to

      decide if any investigation into recruitment practices is

      necessary and if so, to execute those investigations.”

            “Excuse me, Senator,” McAlpin said.

            “The floor recognizes the fine gentleman from North
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                  336


      Carolina,” Cranely said.

            “What proof do we have that this fine gentleman from

      Arizona is being forthright with this body of legislators?

      If, after all, he presents only hearsay and fabrication,

      what measures do we have to challenge him?”

            Cranely at the podium said, “You bring up an important

      point, sir.”    He addressed the committee.   “Gentleman, this
      is not a trial.     It is our responsibility to decide if there

      is enough evidence to determine to proceed further into

      these allegations.      If, after hearing all the testimony, we

      decide more inquiry is warranted, we will proceed.      Heaven

      help any man who come here today bearing false witness.”

      Cranely summoned the first witness.

            General Wright took his seat at the long table before

      the committee.     He was a burly man and looked younger than

      his voice made him sound.     His knuckles were wide, his

      forearms thick.

            “General Wright,” Varela began after being recognized

      by Cranely.    “You were in the military.   Correct?”

            “Yes sir.    I served in the Special Forces during Viet
      Nam, Grenada, the Gulf War, and just about every little

      skirmish in between.”

            “You’ve been decorated numerous times.     Correct?”

            “Purple Heart.     Silver Star.”

            “And the Congressional Medal of Honor.     Correct?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    337


            Beckett squirmed in his seat.   Varela was making out

      Wright to be some kind of hero.

            “Yes sir,” the General said.

            “Now, during your career you had an opportunity to work

      with several branches of the intelligence communities.

      Correct?”

            “Yes sir.    I’ve worked with the CIA, NSA, DIA, FBI,
      OSI, NSI, and on some occasions with The Roamers.”

            “And please tell us just what is a Roamer.”

            “A Roamer is an operative who is well versed in all

      aspects of all the intelligence branches.    They are not a

      part of any organized agency, but in effect are part of all

      of them.”

            “How does one become a Roamer,” the Senator asked.

            “They are selected at birth.    Usually taken from from

      single mothers, preferably college graduates with higher

      than normal IQs.”

            “How do they acquire the babies?   Adopt them?”

            “No sir.    They are taken from the mothers at birth.

      The mothers are told that the baby was stillborn.”
            “Do you have any names of these children?     Or their

      mothers?”

            “No sir.    Not at this time,” Wright said.

            Beckett leaned into McAlpin’s ear.    “Goddamn right he

      doesn’t.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    338


              “Then why are we all here today?” McAlpin said to the

      body.    “This hearing is a complete waste of tax payers hard

      earned money.     Jesus Christ, for what it cost us to meet

      here today, we could have built a home for a welfare mother,

      paid for her to move in, and bought her a year’s worth of

      groceries.”

              “Senator McAlpin,” Cranely said removing his glasses
      and rubbing his tired eyes.    “Please try to contain

      yourself.    As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee,

      you need to respect the fortitude of General Wright in

      wanting to pursue this matter.”

              “I just think that it’s ludicrous that a retired

      General can walk in here, demand a committee meeting and

      have diarrhea of the mouth, spewing nothing but lies and

      hate, just as he does on his radio show.”    He looked to the

      General and said, “What’s wrong with polluting the minds of

      everyday America, General?    Is that not enough?   You now

      have to pollute my mind and the minds of my esteemed

      colleagues?    Tell me, General, when will we get to hear

      about the black helicopters, the UFOs, or Operation Garden
      Plot?”

              “What I say is the truth,” the General responded.     “And

      you should know, sir.”

              “What do you mean I should know?” McAlpin said.

              Beckett leaned into McAlpin’s ear again and suggested
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       339


      that he calm down.

              “You should know sir, because you have been the head of

      this project since its inception.        Operation Prodigy, you

      call it.”

              “That’s nonsense,” the Senator blurted.      “What proof do

      you have?”

              “Sir, I have overwhelming proof.      Sir, I have proof
      that you personally own several clinics across America,

      mostly located in rural towns, that engage in the practice

      of kidnaping infants.         I will also show proof, sir, that the

      number of stillborn babies to single mothers is twelve times

      higher in your clinics than the national average.        I also

      have an eyewitness that can identify the staff at one of

      your clinics taking parting in a baby snatching operation.

      And if that’s not enough, sir, I’ll soon have a list of

      every child that entered the program, along with the name of

      his biological mother, and her last known address.”        The

      General cleared his throat in the silence of the room and

      added, “I’ve got you by the gonadal clef, sir.        And you’re

      going to be squirming to get away.”
              Beckett thought the room would erupt, but no one said a

      word.    No gasping, no groaning.      Nothing.   Just silence.

      “He’s bluffing, sir,” he whispered.        “We’ve intercepted all

      of that.”    He poured his boss a tall glass of water from the

      stainless pitcher, and took his seat behind the Senator just
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     340


      as Varela spoke.

            “You say you have an eyewitness,” Varela said.

      “Correct?”

            “Yes sir.    A physician from their clinic in Tennessee.”

            “May we talk to him,” Varela said and called Dr.

      Langston to the table.

            The young black physician stood in the rear of the room
      and walked down to the table and took his seat next to

      Wright.    He stated his name for the record.

            “Dr. Langston,” Varela began. “You have personal

      account of the alleged kidnaping from the clinic where you

      work?”

            “Used to work, sir,” the doctor said.

            Beckett leaned and whispered, “‘Cause I had his black

      ass fired, sir.”

            “That’s my boy,” the Senator whispered back.

            “You were fired.        Correct?” the Florida Senator said.

            “Yes.   I was fired after I broke up a fight between a

      patient and the head nurse, Nurse Mothersole.”

            “Tell the committee of highly regarded body of
      legislative members just what happened.”

            “A young woman was trying to leave when Mothersole went

      berserk.    She tackled the woman and started beating her.      I

      had to pull her off.”

            McAlpin spoke.     “But wasn’t the, quote, patient
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      341


      actually stealing narcotics from the clinic?        Isn’t that why

      Nurse Mothersole tried to stop her?”

            “I don’t know that she was stealing narcotics.       We

      never called the police.      We never filed with the DEA.      We

      never followed any of the required procedures.”

            “Why not?” Varela asked.

            “We were told not to,” he said.     “Nurse Mothersole said
      she would handle everything.”

            “So then you were terminated.     Correct?”

            “Correct,” Langston said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   342




                                    Chapter 35


              Coop kept a periodic eye on the TV on the far wall

      while he inhaled his breakfast.      The coffee was strong, the

      bacon crisp, and the eggs just wet enough.     Some kind of

      hearings were being shown on CSPAN, and Coop thought he

      recognized one of the Senators, but didn’t give it much

      thought.    It seemed to be his day for faint remembrances.

              “I’ve got to mail all those tapes I’ve been making,” he

      said.    “They’re starting to pile up.”

              “How is the book coming along?” she said.

              “I don’t know,” he said.   “I’ve got some thoughts

      recorded.”    He took in shovelful of eggs.”

              “It’s a good thing you weren’t hungry,” she said,

      pushing her plate toward him.
              “You going to eat that?” he said, setting his sights on

      her biscuits.     As he was about to take one, a blonde figure

      caught his eye.     He was at the front door looking around the

      dining room as if he was searching for a table.     “Don’t turn

      around,” Coop said without moving his lips.     The man was
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     343


      dressed all in black and looked like he had just run a

      marathon.    His head was soaked with sweat, his face was

      dirty, and blood soaked through his shirt at his shoulder.

      His clothes were covered in dust.

            “When I say to, crawl under the table.”     Coop waited

      for the man to look the other way.     “Now,” he whispered, and

      she did as she was told just as the man looked over.     Coop
      stacked her plate on his, dumped her coffee in his, setting

      her cup on the seat next to him.     He straightened the table

      making it look like only he sat there.

            The man began to walk toward Coop, and Coop slipped the

      Browning from behind his waist.     He lay it in his lap under

      a napkin, finger guarding the trigger.     The exit door and

      the men’s room were behind him.     If he had to shoot, it

      would be an easy escape.      But he was tired, he wanted to

      stay around for one more cup of coffee and maybe another

      order of bacon.     He just didn’t feel like leaving yet.

            As the man approached, Coop tried to recall where he

      had seen him.     He had a face that millions of people have.

       Nothing distinguishing, no strong features except for his
      long hair.    He was in good shape, and though not as tall as

      Coop, he was a bit broader.     The man’s boot heels knocked

      against the hardwood floor, growing louder and louder as he

      neared, still scanning the room, paying particular attention

      to the couples having breakfast.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       344


              Coop waited for him to make the first move.     Chances

      were good that he may not even be recognized.       Still, Coop

      braced himself, ready to fire if forced to.     The man kept

      walking.     He was three tables away.   Now two.     When he got

      to Coop’s, Coop was eating with his left hand, right hand in

      his lap.

              Suddenly, the man slid into Coop’s booth, smelling like
      a mix between the desert and B.O., and keeping his hands

      palm down on the table in plain sight as if posing no

      threat.    “You know, I just ran ten miles through the

      desert,” he said.     “You know why?    Some geedunk

      sharpshooter felt it necessary to shoot my chopper out of

      the sky.    Any idea why someone would want to do that?”     When

      Coop didn’t respond, the man continued.     “I kind of got an

      idea, but I’m not sure how it all fits together.       Maybe you

      can help me out, Coop.”

              Geedunk was a word he hadn’t heard since Liberia.     A

      sniper Coop had partnered with on a mission had used that

      word every chance he had.     It was always geedunk this.

      Geedunk that.      But it couldn’t be the same guy.    And even if
      it was, happy reunions aside, he was still trying to kill

      them.    Coop held the weapon steady.    “How do you know me?”

      Coop said.

              “Africa.   You carried my ass out of a tower and across

      ten miles of the shittiest country I had ever been shot in.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     345


              Coop remembered the scene.    He had been assigned to

      break in a FNG on a live mission.      It was his first FNG, and

      the FNG’s first live mission.      The guy ended up taking a

      round in the neck, and Coop had to carry him down the stairs

      of a clock tower, and out of the city, to the evac site ten

      miles away.    Liberia was nine years ago, and he hadn’t seen,

      nor heard from the FNG since.      The guy was wounded so badly,
      Coop just figured the guy died.      He tried to recall his

      name.

              “Mallory,” Mallory said as if he knew what Coop was

      thinking.    “And your Cooper Sumner.”

              “That’s right,” Coop said unemotionally.    Mallory was a

      trained murder.      There was no trusting him.   His loyalty was

      a strong as his paycheck.

              “What are you?   Like her personal bodyguard?” he said

      nodding to Kathryn.      Her head popped up next to Coop, her

      eyes level with the table.      “If that’s the case, mam,”

      Mallory said, “then you’ve got the best.”

              “Why the demotion?” Coop said ignoring Kathryn.

      “What’s she done?”
              “Not sure.   But she angered some pretty high people.    I

      was sent after her when a couple of jerk-offs couldn’t pull

      their dicks out to pee.       Somebody shot the hell out of them.

       And I’m guessing it was you.”

              “Who sent them?”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       346


              Mallory smiled apologetically and said, “You know I

      can’t tell you that, Coop.        I still have my integrity.”

              “Is it necessary that she be demoted?”

              “I don’t think it’s a national interest thing if that’s

      what you’re asking.      I think it’s more personal.    She stole

      something from a prominent member of our Community and he

      feels she should pay.”
              “What’d she steal?”

              “Don’t know.   It could be nudy pictures of the guy who

      sent me for all I know.        I’m just doing what I’m told.”

              “You know I can’t let you do it,” Coop said.        “I’ve got

      you sighted, so if you even start to blink, sixteen rounds

      will find you so fast you won’t have time to finish that

      blink.”

              “Look, man,” Mallory said, not moving his mouth.

      “You’ve got me wrong.         We can work something out.”

              “What are you talking about?” Coop said.

              “I’ll tell her she left the country or something.       I’ll

      say I couldn’t find her.”

              “Why?”
              “I wouldn’t be here without you, man.      You saved my

      life.    I owe a hell of a lot more to you than them.”

              Coop knew sincerity was difficult to spot in people

      like himself and Mallory.        They’ve all been trained to lie

      so effectively you never can tell until it’s too late.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      347


      Though he hardly ever used it, the ability to deceive was

      something that came easy to Coop and, most likely for

      Mallory.    “I don’t know that I can trust you, Mallory.     But

      right now, I’m not in the mood to kill anyone today.        Of

      course that could all change very suddenly.”

              “You’re not kidding,” Mallory said.     “I remember a time

      when you were the man.        You had the reputation of a fucking
      killing machine.     Reckless Disregard for Human Life was your

      mantra, man.    I think they must’ve sewed that in your

      underwear as a kid.      You were the meanest, quickest, most

      durable geedunk mother fucker in the Community.”

              “That was a long time ago, Mallory.”     He wished Kathryn

      hadn’t heard any of it.       It doesn’t make for the best of

      impressions.

              “You see, you and I are just alike.     Born of the same

      loins.    Raised in the same cave.     We both know what it’s

      like to watch a friend die in your arms.       Hold it,” he said.

       “On second thought, you may not.       No one ever died when you

      were on a mission.      Did they?   No, man, you were blessed.     I

      lost five on one geedunk job.       Five geedunk mother fuckers.
       One job.    That’s probably the only difference between you

      and me.    You’re blessed, and, oh yeah, I’m still getting

      paid.    You’re just a volunteer assassin, helping this lovely

      lady, this fair damsel in distress.       That’s the only

      difference.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        348


            Mallory was right.       There wasn’t a hell of a big

      difference between the two.        Mallory was a killer.      And Coop

      could admit he was too.        But the machine had been dormant a

      long time--a long time until this trip.          Then the sound of

      the first burst of the Uzi back at the diner jump started

      the machine, and everything fell into place.         Heart like a

      piston pumping, senses keen, brain on a new level of thought
      process, muscles tighter, reflexes faster.         But this time,

      there was something there that had never been: emotion.           And

      it was a welcomed sign.

            Coop pulled the gun from his lap and lay it on the

      table as a visible threat to Mallory.

            Mallory saw the weapon.       “Man, don’t point that thing

      at me.”

            But Coop left the gun trained on Mallory.         “So what are

      you proposing, Mallory?        Why shouldn’t I maximally demote

      you now?”

            “Why should you?        You go your way.   I go mine.    I tell

      my employer I finished the job.        Life is good.”

            “What about this little thing called integrity you
      mentioned earlier?”

            “Integrity is something you have when no one is

      pointing a gun at you,” he said.

            “Maybe he’s telling the truth,” Kathryn said.

            “I don’t think so,” Coop replied.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    349


              “What if he is?   You can’t kill him.”

              Coop didn’t need anyone telling him not to kill the

      guy.    His mind was made up.   Mallory couldn’t be trusted.

      But Kathryn kept on.      “What if he can help us?   What if he

      can help me get out of the country?”     She was so naive.

              In the half second that Coop turned to tell Kathryn to

      shut up, he took his eye off Mallory.     And in that half
      second, Mallory swung across the table, connecting with

      Coop’s jaw.    The impact knocked his head back and to the

      side.    Mallory snatched the gun, twisting the weapon from

      Coop’s hand.

              “Whatever I say now is the truth,” Mallory said,

      alternately pointing the gun at them.     “And because no one

      has a gun to my head, there’s no reason to question my

      integrity.”    He kept the gun aimed at Kathryn.

              Coop and Mallory locked stares, and Coop felt helpless.

       His options were to toss the table toward Mallory,
      overpower him, and take the gun.     Toss the table, grab

      Kathryn and run out the back.     He didn’t think Mallory would

      cap Kathryn in the diner, but you couldn’t predict what a

      guy like Mallory would do.      Tossing the table was going to

      have to work.

              Coop placed his hands on the table’s edge, ready to

      heave, when Mallory did something Coop didn’t expect.

      Mallory, the emotionless killer, suddenly flipped the weapon
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      350


      so that he was holding it by the barrel, offering it to

      Coop.

              “You see, Coop,” he said.    “I may be a killer, but I’m

      also loyal.    Nine years ago you saved my life and now I am

      returning the favor.      I consider us even.    My debt’s paid.”

              Coop secured the weapon, appraising Mallory and his

      dust covered clothes, looking for any other guns.
              “Here,” Mallory said, reaching behind him.     “Take this

      one too.”    He offered Coop his Glock 17.

              Coop took the second gun and said,      “I don’t know

      whether to buy you a beer, or shoot you dead.”

              “I’d prefer the beer,” Mallory said.

              “And the girl goes?” Coop asked.

              “Free as a bird,” he said.   “I’ll say I did it, but

      she’s got to promise to leave the country and never set foot

      on U.S. soil again.”

              “I promise,” she blurted.

              “These people are serious,” Mallory said.      “I’ll give

      you a couple of days to get things wrapped up before I head

      back,” Mallory said.      “Now, how about that beer.    I know
      it’s early, but I just ran ten miles through a geedunk

      fucking desert and I’m thirsty as hell.”

              There was 24 hour pool hall a few doors down from the

      shipping store, though it called itself as billiards parlor

      trying to capture the new breed of upscale pool players.         A
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       351


      fresh faced twenty something girl behind the bar looked as

      if she had just come on duty.       She still smelled of strong

      perfume, and her clothes were still pressed.       “You guys look

      thirsty?” she said.

              Coop ordered a bourbon for Kathryn and a beer for them,

      and Mallory said he would rack ‘em up.

              “So I guess you two can relax now,” Mallory said, after
      sinking the four ball.        He rotated his bloody shoulder from

      time to time, loosening it up.

              “Yeah,” Coop said, thinking about Dmitri, not wanting

      to give any details to Mallory.       He didn’t have a need to

      know.    It wasn’t his fight.

              “Some Russians are after Coop,” Kathryn said.      “They’ve

      already tried to kill him twice.”       She meant well.   “They

      still might be around.”

              “Russians?   No shit?” he said, just missing the six

      ball in the corner.      He took a hit from his beer.     “I

      thought you retired.”

              “I did,” Coop said, scanning the table for a shot.

              “Geedunk fucking, grudge holding, ruskies,” he said.
      “Man, I hate them.      I once took out four from seven hundred

      yards.    I think I had the third round off before the first

      one struck.    Fuckin’ A, it was cool.”

              Coop sunk the eleven ball.     “That’s quite an

      accomplishment,” he said, wishing Mallory would shut up.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      352


      Kathryn didn’t need to hear that kind of talk.      And Mallory

      should know better.

              “What are they on your ass for, anyway?”

              “I put him away years ago and he’s escaped.”

              “I hate those kind.   They’re like weeds.   You never

      know where they’re going to pop up.      You just got to clip

      ‘em when they do.”      Mallory chalked his cue, as if he knew
      Coop would miss the shot.     “I can help, you know.   I’ve got

      a couple of days I can stick around.”

              Coop made the shot.   “No thanks.   It’s not your fight.

       You’ve done enough already.”       He lined up the next shot.

      “After this beer, we’re hitting the road.      I’ve got to get

      her out of here.”

              “I’ve got to learn my Spanish,” she said.

              “Kathryn,” Coop said, setting down the cue stick.

      “When you’re forced to leave a country, that usually means

      that people are after you.     Right?”

              “Right,” she said.

              “Then don’t give them any clues about what language

      your going to learn.      It’ll make their life so much easier
      if they can eliminate three quarters of the world.”

              “That’s right, man.   But in your case I don’t think

      it’s going to matter, ‘cause I will have already killed

      you.”

              Coop stopped in mid shot.    “Shut the hell up, Mallory,”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       353


      Coop said.    “Don’t say shit like that.”

            “Sorry,” Mallory said.       “That didn’t come out the way I

      meant it.    Sometimes I speak before I think.”

            Coop finished his beer and checked his watch.         It was

      only eleven.    He had three more hours before the damn

      package arrived, but thought he would check anyway.         It was

      time for him and Kathryn to get on the road.
            “Kathryn, we need to move on.       We’ll take one last

      check on the box, then get out of here.”

            “You want me to wait while you go check?”

            “No.   Better come with,” Coop said.

            “She can stay with me,” Mallory said.

            “I’ll be fine,” she said.

            If Mallory was going to kill her, he would have done it

      by now, and the store was only three doors down.       “Are you

      sure?” he asked her.

            “I’ll show her some of my trick shots,” Mallory said.

            It was a quick run three doors down.       “My package here

      yet?” Coop asked the clerk.       He knew Mallory would have to

      have something set up long before Coop left in order to
      whisk her away so fast.       Those things take planning.    He

      turned and could still see the black Lincoln.

            “Let me check,” the clerk said.       He scanned the list on

      his clipboard.     “Hmmm.     What time did I say UPS gets here?”

            “One to two,” Coop said.       Mallory wouldn’t kill her in
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     354


      the pool hall in plain sight of any witnesses.

              “And what time is it now?” the kid asked.

              Coop reached over the counter, grabbed the guy by his

      shirt, and pulled him close.     “I don’t have time for this.

      Is it here or isn’t it?”      He shoved him back, but not too

      hard.    He didn’t want to break the kid.

              “It’s not here,” the clerk said, his voice a few
      octaves higher.

              Coop bolted out the door, running hard for the pool

      hall.    He burst through the door, his eyes taking a few

      moments to adjust to the darkness.     He couldn’t focus.     He

      couldn’t see shit.      Everything was black, except for the dim

      light above the green tables.

              “Was it there?” he heard Kathryn ask.

              “No,” he said, trying not to show how relieved he was

      that she was all right, and at the same time amazed how

      stupid he had been.      Over the trip, he had grown use to

      having her around.      And tomorrow he had to leaver her.    He

      would never see her again.     He would only have her smell to

      remember her by, the look in her eyes when she saw her son
      for the first time, the lingering kisses as the coyotes

      howled, and the way she wrapped herself around him on the

      bike.    It was all going to end tomorrow.   “I think it’s time

      we go,” Coop said.      He offered his hand to Mallory, giving

      back the Glock, then thanked him and wished him luck.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       355


              “No problem, man.     It’s the least I could do for a

      legend,” Mallory said.        He hugged Kathryn and whispered a

      goodbye in her ear.      “Good luck, Kathryn,” he said as he

      broke from the hug, giving her some kind of conspiratorial

      look.

              Outside on the bike, the Chief’s fan had her helmet on

      and Coop was fastening his when she said, “Let’s try one
      more time.    Maybe it’s there.”

              “I just checked,” he said.

              “You never know,” she said.

              He pulled the bike in front of the mail room.     A

      different clerk was behind the desk.       “Yes sir.   It’s right

      here.    It came in first thing this morning,” the clerk said.

      Coop didn’t feel like arguing.       He just signed for the box,

      strapped it on the bike.       He turned out of the parking lot,

      leaving the Mallory in the pool hall, as he found the road

      south.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      356




                                    Chapter 36


            Tomorrow she would be out of his life forever, and Coop

      justified the attraction as just two people caught in a

      traumatic situation.      He kept telling himself they were only

      two people brought together by a crisis, and his feelings

      would pass in a couple of days.      But he was having a hard

      time buying into his theory.      For whatever reason, he didn’t

      want to leave her just yet.      She was officially out of

      danger.   His job was done.     It was time to celebrate.    A

      nice, long, slow celebration.      The next town was seven miles

      away, and he had seen a billboard for a steakhouse.     They’d

      have a nice long dinner and leave bright and early the next

      morning, or maybe sometime around noon.

            The Wagon Train steakhouse was dimly lit and decorated
      with antique wagon wheels and had an “authentic” covered

      wagon out front.     They were seated at an outside table next

      to little pond where geese paddled in line honking for

      scraps.

            “Are you sure we should do this?” Kathryn said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       357


            “You’re in the clear.       Why not?   Tomorrow you’ll be

      delivered safe and sound.”

            “What about you?        What are you going to do?”

            He wanted to say he’d go with her and help her get set

      up in her new country, but said, “I’ll move on.        Maybe head

      up to Washington state.        I’ve never been up the Pacific

      Coast Highway.”     But alone on the road was not where he
      wanted to be.     He wanted to be with her.     “Maybe I’ll just

      head back to Florida.”

            “What about,” she began, then leaned over and

      whispered, “the Russians?”

            He whispered back, “I’m sure I’ll run into them

      eventually.”

            “What are you going to do about them?”

            “I don’t know,” he said.       But he knew.   He just didn’t

      want to tell her.     “I think I’ll let them buy us dinner to

      start with,” he said taking Dmitri’s wallet out of his

      jacket.   “I hear the filet’s very good here.”       He thumbed

      through the bills.      The waitress came.    It was a cold Dos

      Equis for Coop and a bourbon for Kathryn.        “Any ideas where
      you’re going to live?” Coop asked.        “You’ve got the whole

      world at your fingertips.”

            When the waitress left, Kathryn said, “I haven’t given

      it much thought.”

            “Well if you do decide, don’t tell me.        I don’t want to
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       358


      give in to any urge to find you.”

            She looked at him, scrunching her face, and he realized

      what he had just said.        “You’d look for me?” she asked as if

      that was the sweetest thing anyone could do.

            This moment had to be handled delicately.          Although he

      wanted to give just a hint of how he felt, he didn’t want to

      seem to too eager.      “Hell, yeah!” he said.
            Her face softened as she began to speak.       “Coop,” she

      said as tears gathered in her eyes.       “I feel like tomorrow’s

      my last day on this earth.       I’m leaving everything I’ve ever

      thought was important behind for a life with my son.          I have

      no idea where I’m going to live, what I’m going to do, or

      what kind of mother I’m going to be.”

            “You’re going to be a great mother,” he said.

            “I’m not sure how.”

            “Just do what your mother did.       You turned out okay.”

            “My mom left when I was seven.”

            “Then do what your dad did,” Coop said.       “He raised a

      wonderful human being.        Not to mention gorgeous,

      intelligent--”
            “Seriously, Coop.       This is all so new to me.    Nothing

      I’ve ever done is as important as raising my son...My

      son...,” she said as if savoring the words.       “It sounds so

      different, but, in a way, so comfortable.”

            “See,” he said.     “You’re already off to a good start.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       359


              Kathryn stirred her bourbon with the tiny straw and

      drifted off into another world.        Coop could only assume she

      was thinking about life ahead.        He knew the the thoughts

      well.    It wasn’t that long ago he gave up everything he had

      ever known, cutting the umbilical cord that had kept him

      alive for so many years.        It was the hardest single thing

      he’d done until now.      Saying goodbye was something he didn’t
      do well.    Coop felt the gap between them widen.      Last night

      on the lip of the canyon, she was a different woman.        A

      woman who wanted him.         A woman who laughed, or at least

      smiled at his jokes.      A woman that made him feel ten times

      better than he ever had.        But tonight she was putting the

      distance between them, a distance as wide as the canyon

      where they had made love.        And though he hated it, he knew

      it was the right thing to do.        So he played along, not

      wanting to put her in an awkward situation.

              He would soon get over her the way he had...Gabrielle.

       It was an old recipe of distance, time, and women.

      Distance was the main ingredient.        There would be plenty of

      vacationing school teachers ready to lose the thick glasses
      and the tight ponytails for a vacation romp, hundreds of tan

      college girls home for the summer, and even a few local non-

      committing cuties eager to aid in his therapy.

              The band came back on stage and began a slow country

      song.    Kathryn reached across the table for his hand, her
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    360


      long fingers aglow in the soft candle light.    “Dance?”

            Maybe the gap wasn’t so wide, he thought as he led her

      to the dance floor.

            As the Six Shooters strummed through the number, Coop

      held her close against him, feeling her breasts against his

      ribs, her head against he chest.    “I’m really going to miss

      you, Kathryn,” he said softly, not quite sure if he wanted
      her to hear.

            She looked up from his chest, her face streaked with

      tears.   One last droplet lingered in her left eye.    “We

      still have one night left,” she said.    “Let’s not think

      about tomorrow.”     But tomorrow was going to be there in a

      couple of hours, and it was all he could think about.

            “What if I kidnap you and Zack and take you to

      Florida?” he said, smiling at her smile.

            She tip-toed to kiss him.    “I think that’s the best

      plan you’ve come up with so far, mister.”    But he knew she

      was playing.    It wouldn’t be safe.

            “Watch out,” he said.    “One day I just might do it.”

      He saw the waitress set the steaks and fresh drinks on the
      table, but waited for the song to end.    He didn’t want to

      pull away from her just yet.      The next song was another

      slow one, and since he didn’t think it should go to waste,

      he waited for it to finish.    Finally, fifteen minutes later,

      after the third slow dance, the Six Shooters livened it up,
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     361


      clearing the dance floor.     Coop led Kathryn back to the

      table for a final meal of cold steaks and warm beers.

      Conversation was mundane at best, mostly rehashing events

      that occurred along their journey.    Though he tried to

      enthusiastically participate, his heart wasn’t in it.      He

      wanted to talk about tomorrow, next week, or five years from

      now, but she wanted to talk about yesterday, last week, five
      years ago.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     362




                                    Chapter 37


            The next morning Coop nudged her awake.     “I’m going to

      get some coffee,” he said.      Kathryn rubbed the sleep out of

      her eyes.    She didn’t say “Good Morning,” “How’d you sleep,”

      or anything but, “We’d better hit the road.”

            “We’ll leave as soon as you’re ready.”

            “How far we got today?” she said.

            “Another six, maybe seven hours,” he said.

            “We could be there by twelve?”

            “Or one,” he said.      It was obvious she was in a hurry

      to get on with her life, and understandably so.      “I’ll be

      back in a sec,” he said and kissed her on the forehead.      The

      time for goodbye was approaching too quickly.      A brief

      thought of demoting the Senator passed through Coop’s head,
      but he discarded it as soon as it registered.      Even if he

      did kill the Senator, she would still be on the run.      The

      CIA was filled with zealots willing to do anything to honor

      the memory of their leader.      The dilemma with assassinations

      had nothing to do with the value human life, but more so
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       363


      over the concern of who would replace the fallen leader.

      Most times, the new man, being so enraged at the hit, tended

      to be more dangerous than his predecessor, and had to be

      taken out as well, setting up an endless stream of

      demotions.    Nowadays, suicides, drug overdoses, heart

      attacks, infections, and any other type of bioengineered

      hits were the methods of choice.        And most were accomplished
      not by some American spook, but by someone very close to the

      target--long time friends or family were the most efficient.

      Even if he could make it look completely innocent, demoting

      the Senator would be personal.        And no matter how long Coop

      had been out the business, he knew enough not to let it get

      personal.    Besides, it probably wasn’t a very nice thing to

      do.

            Coop meandered through the parking lot, his mind adrift

      on losing Kathryn.      He was in a sleepy thought of her,

      paying no attention to what was going on around him, having

      no idea of his situational awareness.        Dmitri wasn’t fully

      awake either.

            They bumped into each other as they passed in the
      parking lot.    Dmitri’s donuts fell, and the two coffees he

      was carrying spilled over Coop before either knew who they

      had just run into.

            When he realized what was going on, Coop reached behind

      him for his Browning.         Dmitri did the same.   But Coop’s
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      364


      wasn’t there.     It sitting on the night stand.

              Dmitri waved the gun in Coop’s face.     “What a nice

      little coincidence,” Dmitri said.       “Stepping out for

      breakfast, Cooper?”      He looked past Coop, toward the van.

      “Look what I found, darling.”

              Coop heard a van door open behind him and turned to see

      a figure of a woman in the van.       She threw Dmitri a plastic
      tie wrap, and he secured Coop’s hands.

              “Get in,” Dmitri said, poking the barrel into Coop’s

      ribs.    “Not wearing a vest, are you?” he said and turned to

      his wife.    “Keep the gun on him.     Don’t kill him, though.      I

      don’t want you to spoil my morning.”

              Coop stepped in and sat against a panel of computers,

      receivers, and tape recorders.       A bulkhead behind the seats

      kept him separated from the front.       He scanned the inside

      for anything he could use as a weapon.       The van jerked, and

      Dmitri pulled into the road heading into the desert hills.

              “So, Coop,” the woman began.     The bulkhead blocked his

      view of the woman.      She, no doubt, could see him through the

      half-inch holes in the metal wall.       She held the weapon on
      him through the holes.        “Have you enjoyed your trip?”   Her

      voice gave her away.

              “You tell me.   You’re the one that’s been living very

      carelessly through me, Anna.”

              “But now it looks like you’re the one who been
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      365


      careless, Coop,” she said.      “You should not have involved

      yourself with the woman.      You got emotional.   You got weak.

       Very very careless,” she said, and lit a cigarette.       “But

      we would have found you anyway.”

              “Why did you chase me all the way?     That was pretty

      stupid.    Why didn’t you try something before I left.     Or

      wait until I got home.”

              “You left so suddenly,” Dmitri said.    “We had no way of

      knowing Gabrielle was going to dump you.”

              “Besides,” Anna said, “We have to be in Rio in two

      days.    We couldn’t wait any longer.”

              “You’re going to disappoint a lot of people,” he said

      to Anna.    “What am I going to tell everyone at the beach?”

              “I don’t think you’ll be saying much, Coop,” Anna

      replied.

              “If you’re going to say something, say your prayers,”

      Dmitri added.

              “Anna, I heard you were KGB?” Coop said.

              “That’s right,” she said.

              “What happened?” Coop asked, but followed with, “No.

      Don’t tell me.     I think I’ve got it figured out.    Now that

      the cold war has ended, you’ve resorted to stealing secrets

      from the capitalist industrialists, then selling them to the

      highest Russian bidder.       But your reputation went bad when

      you stole the plans to “The Clapper,” and the “The Chia
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        366


      Pet,” he said.     “Am I close?”

             “You were always a funny man, Coop.”

             “Then why all this?      Why come after me?”

             “I wish I could offer something perhaps a bit more

      dramatic,” Dmitri said.       “But it is a very simple, yet

      classic motive: revenge.”

             “We had everything before you came along,” Anna said.
      “Not good like in America, but as good as it could get in

      the Soviet Union.      But you ruined it,” Anna said.

             “But why use Spot?” Coop asked.       “Why not me?   You

      could’ve gotten a lot closer, Anna.         Does it bother you at

      all that Spot really loves you?” he asked, knowing she

      really didn’t care.      He wasn’t even sure why he asked.

             “The man’s an idiot,” she said.       “That’s why he was so

      perfect.    At first I wanted you, Cooper.      But you would have

      seen right through me like a mirror.”

             “A window,” Coop said.      “Seen through me like a

      window.”

             “Yes.    You’re right.   A window.    Besides, I don’t find

      you as nearly repulsing as your friend Spot,” she said.
      “And I promised Dmitri there would be no...funny business.”

             Coop laughed.    Anna had led him to an opening.      “No

      funny business?” he said.       “Dmitri, is that what she told

      you?   Jesus, the way Spot tells it you two were like fucking

       rabbits.      Some days going from the time you woke up until
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     367


      the time you finally passed out, exhausted from screwing

      each others brains out.       Shit, from what Spot said, he set a

      new record, eleven times in in one day!”      He faked another

      laugh.    “Eleven fucking times.    I don’t know what you call

      that in Russia, but in America, that’s funny business.

      That’s a shitload of funny business, Dmitri.      That’s more

      fucking funny business that most people do in a month.”
            “It won’t work, Cooper,” Dmitri said.      “I know what you

      are doing.    Give it away,” he said.

            “Give it up,” both Coop and Anna said at the same time.

            “Whatever,” Dmitri said.

            “That’s good,” Coop said.      “Don’t get emotional,

      Dmitri.   You’ll be able to think better that way.”     Coop

      looked out the window, planning his next move.      He was

      trained to handle any situation, but he wasn’t prepared for

      what passed by him on the two lane highway, heading toward

      the hotel.    His heart and stomach jumped in his throat as he

      saw Mallory passed by in the black Lincoln.      Mallory had

      lied, and Coop had been taken in by him.      His emotions had

      crept up on him like a killer in the night, taking the woman
      he loved.    His emotions had let him trust Mallory.    His

      emotions had let him wander through the parking lot.         He was

      thinking about Kathryn when he ran into Dmitri.      For a short

      second, he had lost his situational awareness, and

      jeopardized Kathryn.      Had it not been for his emotions, he
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      368


      would not have been in this van.      Had it not been for his

      emotions, though, Kathryn would’ve died at the diner in

      Kansas.

            Coop had to get control of the van, turn it around and

      get back and stop Mallory.      With his hands tied behind him,

      the van empty of weapons, and no way to jump Dmitri,

      emotions may be his only weapon.
            “I’ve seen the videos, Dmitri.      You’ve got yourself one

      wild woman,” Coop said.       “I’ve only seen a woman who can do

      that thing with her legs once.      And she was a Polish

      gymnast.    How do you do that, Anna?    Were you a Polish

      gymnast?”

            “Good try, Cooper,” Dmitri said and started in on Anna

      in Russian thinking that Coop couldn’t understand.       “What

      thing with the legs?      That thing you do for me?   He’d better

      be lying, Anna.     You only do that for me.”

            “Of course he’s lying, sweetheart,” Anna replied in

      Russian.

            “No I’m not,” Coop said in English.       “I’ve got proof.

      Spot likes his woman clean shaven,” Coop said.        “And I’m not
      just talking legs.”

            Dmitri scowled at Anna as she looked out the window,

      purposely avoiding eye contact.

            “But then what about you, Dmitri.      I find it hard to

      believe you remained true to dear Anna while you showering
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      369


      with all the other lonely men in prison.      How long before

      you became somebody’s little petrukh?,” Coop said.       “They

      say that shit’ll make your hair turn gray.”      Coop chuckled.

       “I guess they were right.”    Coop must have struck a nerve

      with Dmitri.    Before Coop could react, Dmitri grabbed the

      gun from Anna and squeezed off a wild round.      The bullet

      glanced off Coop’s arm, ripping the outer layer of skin.

              Still in a fury, Dmitri pulled the van off the main

      road, and down a dirt road that seemed to lead to nowhere.

              The van stopped, Dmitri jumped out mad as hell, and

      opened the door.     “Get out,” he said, holding the gun on

      Coop.    Coop did as he was told.    Anna stepped from the van.

       “Hold this,” he said, giving his weapon to Anna.      “If he

      tries anything, shoot him.    Shoot him in the fucking head.”

              Dmitri blindfolded Coop.    They were going to kill him

      right there at the side of the road.      He had to get the gun

      from Anna.    With the blindfold on, he expected only one shot

      to the head.    But Dmitri stepped back, and with a carefully

      placed kick between Coop’s legs, crumpled him.      As Coop

      dropped to his knees, Dmitri’s foot met Coop’s mouth,

      knocking a few teeth loose.    He struggled to stand.

              “It wouldn’t be any fun to just shoot you, you

      pervert,” Dmitri said.

              “I bet you kept a clean cell for your moosh,” Coop said
      and took another kick in the face before he could react.         He
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       370


      could taste the sand on the leather boot.

             Slowly, through the blindfold, Coop began to make out

      the shadow images of the two.         Anna was standing next to

      the passenger door to his left, and Dmitri was in front of

      him.   Dmitri had slowed his pace, and Coop had to get him

      riled again.    He tried to recall some of his martial arts

      kicks he hadn’t used in awhile.        “Did he make you wear a
      dress, Dmitri?     Crotch less panties, maybe?     Did he make you

      wear lipstick when you went down on him?        You know, the way

      Spot made Anna.”     That should work.

             Dmitri stepped back into Coop’s reach, and Coop made

      his move.    He crouched slightly to spring, then shot up in

      the air, round housing Dmitri in the jaw.        He felt something

      crack, either his heel or Dmitri’s jaw.        He couldn’t tell

      which.   As he landed, he pushed off, spun, and head butted

      Anna against the window, the force turning her toward the

      van.

             Since Dmitri had no weapon, he wasn’t a priority, so

      Coop focused on Anna.         He was pressing against her, crushing

      her against the door, using all the strength in his legs and
      back, not allowing her to move.        He could hear the gunmetal

      thunk against the door and felt nothing poking into his gut.

       The weapon was wedged between her and the door.

             He head butted her again, and the window shattered.

      She was still fighting.        He rammed her again, this time
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   371


      straining his neck muscles, forcing her head through the

      broken window.     He braced for Dmitri’s return as he pressed,

      his muscles burning all the way down to his calves.    She

      shuddered, and Coop pressed harder.    With the air out of her

      and her circulation cut off, she passed out.

              Coop stepped back, expecting her to fall into an

      unconscious heap at his feet, but she didn’t.    She just
      hanged there, losing her grip on the weapon.    He heard it

      drop to the sand and covered it with his feet, standing

      poised for Dmitri’s attack, searching through the blindfold

      for any approaching shadows.    He waited for a few seconds,

      wondering what had happened to Dmitri, then dropped to the

      ground.    He slid his body through this tied wrists, so that

      his hands were in front of him and removed the blindfold.

              The desert sun burned his eyes as they adjusted to the

      light.    When everything came into focus, he saw Anna hanging

      against the blood soaked door, the underside of her chin

      caught on a jutting piece of window glass, her arms at her

      side, her knees bent, her eyes wide and covered in blood.

      He turned to find Dmitri on his back in the brush, his neck
      broken, his head turned all the way around, his face in the

      sand.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        372




                                      Chapter 38


              When he pulled into the hotel lot, Coop couldn’t find

      the Lincoln.    He threw the van into park and darted to the

      room.    He stood at the door, afraid of what lay on the other

      side.    He counted to himself and when he got to three he

      busted through.

              Kathryn was on the bed, legs crossed watching CNN.

      “Where you’ve been?” she said.        He could tell she was

      startled.    “Oh my God,” she said.      “What happened?”

              “Dmitri,” he said, shutting the door behind him,

      relieved, but still confused she was all right.         He

      collapsed on the bed.         His weapon lay on the nightstand

      where he had left it.         Anna’s blood had soaked through his

      shirt and now crinkled on his skin.          “Do I have clean
      shirt,” he asked.

              “I’ll get your bag,” she said.

              Coop looked around.      She had made the beds, arranged

      the toiletries at the sink, and probably cleaned the

      bathroom and vacuumed the floor.        He chose not to mention
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       373


      Mallory.    Either it wasn’t him in the Lincoln, or he was

      just passing through.         There was no need to upset Kathryn.

            When she returned, he dug through the clothes and

      pulled out a faded dark green T-shirt.          A nice happy color.

       A nice, happy, blood-free tee.         “C’mon,” he said, sliding

      the shirt over his head.        “Zack’s waiting for you.”

            She smiled with obvious anticipation, and said, “We’re
      burning daylight.”

                               *          *       *

            They had been on the road for three hours and had three

      more to go, and except for the roar of the 1300ccs, there

      was silence.    No yelling over the engine, no joking, no taps

      on the shoulder, and no stops to pee.           She wasn’t even

      holding on very tight.        It was like she was just ready for

      their adventure to end.        As if she’d had enough and was

      ready to move on to the next chapter.

            But he thought of going straight to Mexico and taking

      her with him.     Or hanging a left on I10 and heading back to

      Florida.    They would send for Zachary as soon as they got to

      the beach.    They could stay with him for as long as they
      wanted.    Hell, he had the room.       He may just need a little

      more furniture.

            She’d love Spot’s, the sugar white beaches, the

      boardwalk.    Zachary would love the telescope, snorkeling for

      flounder at dusk, riding in the Hummer.          He’d teach Kathryn
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    374


      to dive.    They’d explore the Pete Tide, the Advocet, The

      Russian Freighter.      But he also knew it was the end, and in

      the end he was just dreaming.

             So a little after one in the afternoon, he took the

      last turn into the mall parking lot crowded with shoppers.

      It must’ve been a Saturday to have been so busy this time of

      day.   Coop pulled in front of Macy’s and cut the engine.
      She released her hold on him and got off the bike.        This was

      it.    He dismounted and began to unstrap the bags.

             “You want me to carry this in for you?” he asked.

             “That’s okay,” she said.    “I can manage.”

             He looked around the parking lot if the words he wanted

      to say were hidden somewhere amongst the minivans and Jeeps.

       This was always the most difficult part for him;

      verbalizing what he felt, and not sounding like an idiot.

      “Kathryn,” he began, “I--”

             As if she knew what he was going to say, she pressed

      her fingers to his lips to hush him.     “You have to go now,”

      she said.    “And I have to go now.”   She kissed him on the

      cheek.   “I could have never done this without you.       And for
      that I will always be thankful.”       She kissed him once more,

      then said, “Thank you for everything, Coop.     I’ll never

      forget you.”

             But he couldn’t go.    He wanted grab her by the

      shoulders and tell her he loved her.     He wanted her to come
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      375


      with him.    He wanted to say something.    But he didn’t.   If

      she didn’t leave the country, she’d end up watching

      suspicious cars pass in front of the house, wondering who

      was approaching on the bike path, and being cautious of the

      tourist asking for directions--living her life as he lives

      his.    All he could do now was wish her luck, kiss her

      goodbye, and get out of her life.
              “This is it Coop,” she said.

              He wanted the moment to linger.    “Not yet,” he said.

      “I’ve got something for you.”    Coop dug an manilla envelope

      out of his daypack and handed it to her.

              “What is this?” she asked as she slid a finger under

      the flap.

              “It’ll help you get where you’re going,” Coop said.

              Kathryn lifted the envelope and dumped the contents

      into her hand.     She stared at the passport in amazement.

      “How?” she asked, her eyes wide, tearing as they had done at

      the school.    She flipped through the passport, then ran her

      finger over the laminated inside cover.      “It’s perfect,” she

      said.    “How did you do this?   Where’d you get the picture?”
              “I figured you wouldn’t be needing you drivers license

      anymore,” he said.

              “When did you have a chance to do this?”

              “Last night when you were asleep.   It was the package I

      picked up.    I have a little kit,” he said with a slight
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      376


      shrug.   “There’s also a birth certificate,” Coop said.

      “It’s folded in the back.       You were born in Richmond,

      Virginia.”    He pointed to the signature block.     “See, it’s

      even signed by Deanne Huxtable, State Registrar,” he said

      proudly.    “These are official.     You won’t have problem

      getting anywhere.”

            In her soft voice she said, “Coop, I don’t know how to
      thank you.    I’m not sure that I ever could.”

            “Just think of me from time to time.”       This was getting

      tough.   Coop looked at his watch.      “Geeze.   Would you look

      at the time,” he said.        He didn’t care what time it was, but

      he couldn’t stand there any longer without telling her how

      much he loved her.      “I’d better head out,” he said.

            “You’re burning daylight,” she replied with a faint

      smile.

            He kissed her on the cheek and said goodbye.        Coop

      straddled the bike and started it up, joining in with noise

      of the passing cars.      She was still standing there, waiting,

      watching him leave.      He gave a little wave and throttled

      off, leaving her standing on the sidewalk.        He felt like
      turning around, but couldn’t.       He got her this far, and she

      could take care of herself the rest of the way.       The trip

      was over.    He had done what he was supposed to do: deliver

      her safe and sound.      His job was finished.

            He glanced in the mirror and he could still see her
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      377


      standing and waving, as if she was waiting for him to turn

      around.     Coop didn’t want her to get away.    He had to tell

      her how he felt.     So, fighting his better judgement, Coop

      turned the bike around.       He was over a hundred yards away

      and could still see Kathryn standing on the curb.      She

      hadn’t moved.

              But something at the end of the lot caught his eye, and
      in the distance, he saw the black Lincoln.      It only took a

      split second for it to register.      He had to beat Mallory to

      Kathryn.    Coop gunned the throttle, aiming his bike at the

      Lincoln.

              He was closing in on fifty miles per hour when Mallory

      slowed in front of Kathryn.      And even over the noise of the

      engine, Coop could hear the automatic weapon fire.

              Kathryn’s knees buckled and she fell to the ground.

      Coop held tight to the throttle, aiming the bike, focusing

      on nothing but the car.       He had only one chance to stop

      Mallory.    He steered the bike into the path of the Lincoln.

       At ten yard’s from the car, he lay the bike down, and

      rolled into the curb about the same time the bike slid into
      the Lincoln, exploding just as the car climbed over the

      bike.       Coop watched as the black Lincoln jumped three

      feet off the ground, then, flaming from the undercarraige,

      limped through the lot, around the corner, and out of sight.

              He gathered himself and ran to Kathryn, cradling her
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                           378


      head as she lay bloodsoaked, hot, and coughing.            He yelled

      for someone in the growing crowd to call 911.         “Everything

      is going to be all right,” he said.          “I’m here.”   She didn’t

      respond.    “Don’t leave me, Kathryn,” he said.       “You’re going

      to be all right.”

            She was still breathing, but barely.         She tried to

      speak but the blood in her mouth held her words.           She
      reached into the pocket of her jacket and clutched something

      in her hands.     She pushed her hand to his. Coop opened her

      hand and the golf ball he had given her fell out.

            “No!” Coop cried.       “You can’t!”

            Coop felt a firm tap on his shoulder and turned around.

       “Let her go, son,” a man said.        “I’ll take her from here.

      You’ve done all you can do.”

            “Who are you?” he said sharply, pulling the Browning

      from his waist, pointing it at the man.         Coop looked beyond

      the man and saw the ambulance.

            “I’m the paramedic,” he said.

            He turned back to her.      “Kathryn,” Coop said, “you

      can’t leave me now.      I love you.   I love you, Kathryn.       I
      won’t let you go.”      For the first time since he was a child

      he began weeping.

            The EMT knelt beside Coop and felt for her pulse.           He

      held on for a second or two, then released her delicate

      wrist.   “She’s gone, sir,” he said.         “Let her go.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                 379


            Coop held her for a moment more until the man pried her

      away from him.     The other EMT brought out stretcher, lifted

      her and swept her away into the ambulance.    Coop struggled

      to stand, his knees weak, and followed the man to the door

      only to have it shut in his face.

            “I have to see her,” he demanded, pounding on the door.

      “You can’t just take her without me,” he said.    “I love her.
       And I think she loved me,” he said.

            The door opened, and the EMT stuck his head out.    “I’m

      sure she did, sir.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      380




                                      Chapter 39


            “You know she did,” Spot said, pouring himself a beer.

       It was noon, and Spot’s Exotic Animals and Gulf Side

      Watering Hole was slowly filling with the suntanned crowd,

      downing beer and Bushwhackers, getting in one last

      celebration before the weekend ended.

            “I guess I’ll never know,” Coop said.        It was good to

      be back home.     He had stayed in Arizona for her funeral,

      standing outside the circle of family members, wondering who

      everyone was.     The man giving the eulogy was someone he

      recognized, first by his voice, then by the round, reddish

      face he had seen on CSPAN a few days before.        General Wright

      had stood over her casket expressing how Kathryn had died a

      hero, died a mother.
            “I guess it’s just the two of us, again,” Spot said,

      yanking Coop back into the conversation.

            “Thanks, Spot,” he said and finished his beer.        “I

      think I’ll head home.         I’ve got all those tapes to listen to

      if I’m ever going to write this book.”        He lay five dollars
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        381


      on the bar and pushed away.

              Coop was almost out the door when Spot called him back.

       His voice was low, subdued.       “Coop,” he said, then cleared

      his throat.      “I just wanted to thank you for being honest

      with me about Anna.      I know coming here and telling me what

      happened was probably one of the most difficult things you

      could do.       A lesser man would have lied and made up some
      bullshit story, and I would’ve never known any different,”

      Spot said.      “I would’ve always been waiting for her to

      return, always wondering where she was.       I knew she loved

      me,” he said.      “I could tell.”

              “That was the last thing she said before she boarded

      the plane back to Moscow, ‘Tell Spot I really really love

      him,’” Coop said.      So maybe he wasn’t perfectly honest with

      him.    But why go into the details?    The results would be the

      same, she was never coming back.      And this way Spot could

      move on feeling good about himself and what he’d had with

      Anna.

              “She said ‘really really’ right?”

              “Really really,” Coop said.    “Then she said, ‘Tell him
      I love him from the heart of my bottom,’ but I think she

      meant it the other way.”

              “See.    I told you she loved me.   I knew she did.   Oh

      well,” he said, and sipped his beer.        “Her loss.”

              “Her loss,” Coop agreed.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    382


              Coop dipped and darted, pedalling his way through the

      packed parking lot, down the Keenan Memorial bike path, then

      up the short white driveway, and into his garage.    He leaned

      the bike against the wall in front of the Hummer.    The

      garage looked empty without the Harley.

              He hadn’t been looking forward to listening to the

      tapes but if he was going to write the book, he had no
      choice.    He still had no idea what to write, but at least

      this way, perhaps on a Bombay inspired night, he may come up

      a plan.    And he had a feeling there would be plenty of those

      nights ahead.

              Spot had left the house in decent shape, except for a

      few stray grits that had cemented themselves to the kitchen

      wall.    All the furniture was in place; the chair was in

      front of the TV.     Coop poured three fingers of the Bombay

      Saphire, added three semi-circle formations of ice his

      refrigerator called ‘cubes’ and squeezed a quarter of a lime

      into the glass.

              He flipped through the multitude of religious channels,

      the plethora of shopping channels, stopping when he saw a
      familiar face.     General Wright was testifying again for the

      Senate Intelligence committee.    He left the sound off and

      sipped his drink.

              The envelope of tapes lay in his lap, he started to

      open it when he heard a crash outside the sliding glass door
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        383


      and jumped up to investigate.      He tugged on the cord to the

      verticle blinds, and opened the door.       One of Spot’s empties

      had fallen over in the breeze.

              Slippery Dick Velour was on his deck in his same black

      Speedo Sweating to the Oldies, Volume 3, between smoke

      breaks.    “Hey Coop,” he called.      “Where’ve you been?   You

      missed some excitement around,” he said and lit another
      Marlboro.

              “I heard a little about it,” Coop said turning away.

              “Oh yeah,” he said.   “Federal Agents and everything.

      They had search warrants, battering rams, everything.”

              “Really,” Coop said and picked up a couple more of

      Spot’s empties.     “Whose house?”

              “Mine.   Can you believe it?    Apparently a couple of

      agents disappeared from out front while they were

      investigating me.”

              Coop straightened.    “Why you?”

              “I’m making so much damn money, they think it should be

      against the law,” he said.      “You should climb aboard.     I’ve

      got an opening for another investor.       I can get you a sixty
      to two hundred percent return on your investment.       The

      minimum it takes to get--”

              Coop stopped listening when he felt the movement around

      his ankles, the slow, vibrating figure-eights welcoming him

      home.    He took the cat inside and shut the door behind him.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    384


       “I was wondering what happened to you,” he said and rubbed

      the cat between the ears.     He put a handful of Friskies in a

      bowl and set the cat down.

            The tapes had lain on the counter for a few days. Then

      finally, after several trips for more ice, stopping a few

      times to rearrange the furniture, and checking on the cat

      over and over, Coop had ran out of excuses and opened the
      envelope.    The tapes spilled into his lap, all numbered,

      with dates, locations, and times.    He sifted through the

      pile and started picking out dates that he wanted to relive.

       The good days, like the under the trees, or when he first

      met her, or that night on the canyon rim.

            One tape mixed in with all the others wasn’t labeled

      and had a key taped to the back of the case.     Coop popped it

      in and heard Kathryn’s voice.

            “Hi Coop, it’s Kathryn.    Surprise!   I know that you had

      a lot of questions during our time together and I told you

      that I would answer them all.    Right now, I’m laying under

      the stars at the Coyote Free campground, and you’re asleep.

       Somehow, though, I expect that the wind through the
      mesquite is not wind at all, but in fact, Coyotes howling in

      the distance.     But with you here, I feel like nothing can

      hurt me.

            “Unfortunately, because you are listening to this tape,

      I am not available--I guess that would be a nice way of
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   385


      putting it--to answer your questions in detail.     So I’ll

      start from the beginning.     But first, one thing, okay, maybe

      two.    First: Thank you for helping me.   It would have ended

      totally different had you not come along.     I don’t know what

      else to say.    Second: You have to know that I love you,

      Coop.    I never told you, but I love you more than I could

      have ever imagined loving anyone.     It’s all so overwhelming.
       I am forever going to love and miss you.

              “Now the answers to your questions.   As you know,

      Zachary is my son.      Five years ago, I gave birth to him in a

      small hospital in Tennessee.     I could have sworn I heard him

      cry when I delivered him, but they told me he was stillborn.

       They gave me so much medication, they told I must have been

      imagining it.     For years I would feel a pull, or a tug at my

      dress and would look down and no one was there.

              “Then a month ago, a man named Jonas contacted me.    You

      know him as General Wright.     At first I thought he was nuts.

       The guy can come across a little confusing sometimes.       But

      as I talked to him, it all began to make sense.     Sick,

      demented sense.     The program is called Operation Prodigy and
      has been run by one man; Senator McAlpin.     In the fifties,

      he was with the CIA, and was put in charge of recruiting for

      a special group of agents.     No one asked him how he was

      going to do it.     He had total authority and no

      accountability.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        386


              “He thought it was too difficult to train agents out of

      college, so he started sooner.        A lot sooner.   My baby,

      along with hundreds of others over the past thirty or forty

      years, had been kidnapped by him and sent to schools like

      Zachary attended and trained to be a new breed of agents.

              “Yeah, I know.    It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?      But

      it’s true.    I have the proof.      And that’s where I need your
      help.    Take the key, go to Nashville, get the files in the

      safe deposit box at the First Tennessee Savings and Loan and

      take them to Jonas at the hearings.        They are copies of

      files and disks I stole from one of McAlpin’s clinics.           The

      originals I put in another bank, hoping McAlpin would find

      them and not come after me.        I guess I was wrong.

              “Did you know there are tests to show if you made

      copies of a document?         Jonas told how to get around that.

      Anyway, you must get them to him.        He’s supposed to testify

      soon, if he hasn’t started already.        The files contain all

      the names of the agents that were ever involved in the

      program, along with their mother’s name and her last known

      address.    Take these files to Jonas and stop this from
      continuing.    It’s up to you, Coop.

              “I’d better go.   I love you, Coop.     By the way, you

      were wonderful tonight.        I miss you already.

              “Oh I almost forgot...this tape will self destruct in

      five seconds...I’ve always wanted to say that.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     387


              “I love you.”

              He clicked off the tape, sat for a moment in the

      silence the house.      General Wright’s name was in the blue

      box at the bottom of the screen, and Coop turned up the

      volume.

              “No sir,” the General said.   “We have no more witnesses

      to call.”
              “Then I’m going to have to agree with the fine

      statesman from the great state of North Carolina,” Senator

      Cranely said.     “There is not enough evidence to even suggest

      any wrong doing on the part of Senator McAlpin.”

              “But sir, I can get you a list of names.   It’s just

      going to take a day or two.     My contact has since died after

      securing the list and I am having trouble locating that

      list.”

              “And I suppose I killed her,” McAlpin said to Wright.

              “We will adjourn for the day, and reconvene tomorrow at

      nine.    I’ll decide then whether to proceed or not,” Cranely

      said.    He looked to the Senator from Florida.    “Senator

      Varela, all you have accomplished thus far is to manage to
      taint the name and character of one of our wisest statesmen.

       Senator McAlpin has been selflessly serving this great

      country of ours since before you were born, sir.     And

      because of your paranoia-induced witch hunts, you have

      caused the gentle man much pain and suffering.     Perhaps you
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     388


      should not listen so much to the government’s-gonna-gitcha-

      if-you-don’t-watch-out theories of General Wright.

            “And General Wright, perhaps you should stop spreading

      such hate and discontent.      People want to believe that the

      person they elect to serve them is on their side.      And most

      do.   I’ve heard your show and it feeds of the insecurities

      of those scared, silly, ignorant listeners that tune you in
      day after day after day.      As a broadcaster, you have

      responsibility for what you say.      It’s time you took that

      responsibility seriously.”      Cranely pounded the gavel,

      ending the session.

            Coop flipped off the set, grabbed his suit from the

      closet.   He threw in a few pairs of jeans and put the cat

      outside with a bowl of food.      As an afterthought, he stuck

      his laptop in his daypack, and left for the airport.

            Two hours later he was on a flight to Nashville, the

      safe deposit key in his pocket.      Four hours later he was

      inside the First Tennessee Savings and Loan, and an hour

      after emptying the safe deposit box, he was on the phone to

      Special Agent Banister.       He agreed to help analyze the
      information, so Coop could present his findings if there

      were any.

            The flight landed just after dark, and Dan was waiting

      at the gate.    He’d lost a lot of weight and was still

      coughing.    He was pallor, and his hair was thinning.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     389


            After a couple of handshakes and some catching up, Dan

      said, “So what’s the big mystery?”

            “I’ll tell you when we get to the hotel.     I’m at the

      Stouffers in Crystal City,” Coop said.      “Let’s stop and pick

      up a some beer.     This could take awhile.”

            “How long is a while?”

            “What do you care?      Consider it a date,” Coop said.
      “You haven’t had one of those in awhile.”

            The room was adequate, but had no sizable work space.

      So Coop ordered a six foot folding table and while he waited

      for it to arrive, cracked them both a beer and told Dan

      about his trip, about Kathryn, Zachary, and General Wright.

            “Oh, geeze, not this?” Dan said.     “Don’t tell me you

      believe this crap.”

            “I wouldn’t have a month ago,” Coop said.

            When the table arrived, they spread out the papers on

      the table, opened another beer, and Dan began scanning the

      pages, while Coop popped files in and out of his laptop.

            “Just what are we looking for,” Dan asked.

            “Anything that links Senator McAlpin to this list of
      people.”

            “Who are these people?”

            “It is supposed to be a list of children that were

      kidnapped at birth and turned into agents for the CIA.”

            “This list goes back to the fifties, Coop.     The first
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     390


      entry is in fifty four.”      Dan flipped through the pages.

      “It’s divided up by years, then followed by a list of

      names.”

              “One of the names is supposed to be the kid’s name.

      The other, the mother’s name with last known address.”

              “So I got a list of names?” Dan said.   “What the hell

      am I supposed to do with them?”
              “I’m not sure,” Coop said.   “Read them or something.

      I’ve got financials on this disk.     It follows the routing

      of--”

              “Coop,” Dan said solemnly.

              “Hold on.   I’m just about to--,”

              “Coop,” Dan said firmly.   “You need to see this.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       391




                                    Chapter 40


            Coop and Dan arrived at the hearings just as the

      Cranely struck the gavel.      The crowd had thinned out,

      leaving only a handful of reporters in the gallery.         The

      Senators all looked bored.      All but McAlpin.   He was

      smiling.

            “Do you have your list of phantoms, General Wright,”

      Cranely asked.

            “No sir,” the General said.

            “Then I have no other option than to end these

      hearings.    You’ve cost the tax payers quite a bit of money,

      General.    And I think you owe--”

            Coop cleared his throat.     “I have that list, Senator,”

      Coop called from the back of the room.     McAlpin’s smile
      dropped as his assistant whispered in his ear.

            “And who are you, sir?” Cranely asked.

            “Cooper Sumner, Senator.”

            “And how are you connected to this hearing?”

            “I am the one holding the ace, Senator.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                     392


            “And how might that be?” Senator McAlpin said.

            “I present you the list of names of all the children

      that were taken from their loving mothers and put in special

      schools, later becoming agents for the Central Intelligence

      Agency.   These children were taught how to speak several

      languages perfectly.      They were taught military strategy by

      the time they were eight, how to escape and evade by ten,
      how to kill a man by twelve.      Hell, they knew how to

      infiltrate foreign governments by age fifteen.”

            “That’s absurd,” Cranely said and waved for security.

      A marine guard approached Cooper, but didn’t stop Coop from

      continuing.

            “As the children became high school age, some were sent

      overseas to various Soviet Bloc countries as well as China

      and North Korea to be, quote, adopted, by local families--

      U.S. sympathizers working for the CIA.      The students

      excelled in school, and upon graduation, were recruited for

      the military academies.       There, our children, over time,

      became moles at the highest levels of Communist government.”

            “Are you finished, Mr. Sumner?” McAlpin asked.
            “Not quite, sir,” Coop said.      “Some of the boys stayed

      here in the U.S. to finish their education.      From there they

      went on to sniper school in Quantico, Jump school at Ft.

      Bragg, Scuba school in Panama City, Survival School at Eglin

      and Fairchild.     The ones that made it went on to the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   393


      different Military Academies then into the service of the

      CIA, NSA, DIA, ISA, or a combination of all agencies,

      forever loyal to Mother America.”

            “So am I to believe we raised a bunch of educated

      assassins, Mr. Sumner?”

            “No sir,” Coop replied.    “Some boys didn’t fit the

      profile.    They became office workers, generic government
      employees, hairdressers, whatever.    Some never made it into

      college.”

            “Come now, Mr. Sumner,” Cranely began.     “If that’s the

      case, then why haven’t any of these men come forward to

      testify against Senator McAlpin?”

            “Senator, these men have no idea they’re in this

      program.    They all think they were orphaned.   That’s why

      this program has been so successful for over forty years.”

            “I still find it hard to believe, sir, that none of

      these men are aware of their roles.”

            “Senator, if I can find one man to step forward, will

      that proof be enough to investigate further?”

            The Senator thought for a moment.    “I should think so,”
      the Senator said.     “Thus far we only have hearsay.   Nothing

      concrete.”

            Coop stepped forward and handed the list to Cranely.

      “Senator, I would like you to read the list of names on page

      four.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      394


             “Very well,” Cranely said.

             “This is ludicrous,” McAlpin screamed jumping up from

      his seat, slamming his fist on the table.     “Absolutely

      ludicrous.”    McAlpin pushed his way through the other

      Senators to the end of the row.     “I will not sit by and--”

             “And what?” Cranely asked.    “As a member of this

      committee you will adhere to the decorum.     Now please, sit
      back down.”    He looked back to Coop.   “Page four?”

             “Yes sir.”

             “This is bullshit!” McAlpin yelled, his face turning

      red.   “The man’s a liar.     He’s got no proof.   We can’t

      listen to him.”

             “Senator McAlpin!” Cranely yelled.    “You’re way out of

      control.    Get a hold of yourself,” Cranely said and turned

      to Coop.    “The list starts with Brunson, Frank L..    Mother’s

      name: Francis Pickett, address 103 West Montgomery Road,

      Saginaw, Michigan, deceased.     Next, Guillaume, Robert M..

      Mother’s name: Julie Bennett, address 13432 Prairie Terrace

      Drive, Souix Falls, South Dakota, deceased.”       The Senator

      stopped reading and looked over his glasses at Coop.        “Are
      you sure you want me to continue, Mr. Sumner?”

             “Please, Senator,” Coop said.

             “Are you sure?”

             “It’s all a bunch of lies!” McAlpin screamed.     “There’s

      no proof,” he said as he charged Cranely.     “No fucking
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                  395


      proof!”

            Cranely nodded toward the Marine guard, and the guard

      moved to contain McAlpin.

            When there was silence, Cranely asked again.     “Are you

      sure you want me to continue, Mr. Sumner?”

            “Positive.”

            “Very well,” Cranely said and began reading.     “Sumner,
      Cooper M..    Mother’s name: Dorthy Halston--.”

            What little press there was began gasping and hooting

      so loud, the Senator had to stop reading.     It didn’t matter.

       Coop knew what the rest said.

            “I was one of those boys, sir.     One of those boys who

      was taken away from his mother and raised by the government.

      Like the rest of the children, my mother was a single,

      college educated woman, with no family to speak of.     My

      mother, after having checked into the clinic was over

      medicated during the delivery and was later told I had died

      during birth.

            “Dr. Vlatnikov, a former Russian Minister of Health,

      was the attending physician, and was being blackmailed by
      McAlpin with the threat of being returned to Russia.

      Returning to Moscow meant certain death for the doctor, so

      he did what he was told.      He kept quiet until confessing his

      involvement the night he died.     Fortunately, he confessed to

      the right man.     None of this would have ever surfaced had it
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   396


      not been for General Wright.”

              “And what exactly was your role with the government?”

      Cranely asked.

              “I, sir, have gone black to--”

              “Explain gone black?” Cranely asked.

              “Worked and lived under illegal concealment to

      infiltrate such organizations as the Russian Mafia, the KGB,
      a few radical Islamic groups, and a couple of Nazi wannabes.

       Hell, I’ve even been placed in the FBI just to gain intel

      on their counter espionage missions.”

              “So you were a spy.”

              “I’ve also performed sanctions--maximum demotions.    My

      last official hit was the drug lord and former CIA advisor

      Senor Menendez.”

              “I thought we outlawed assassinations with the

      executive order,” Cranely said.

              “That order only pertained to heads of state,” Coop

      said.    “Not terrorists and enemies of the state.”

              Senator Cranely looked over his glasses to McAlpin,

      standing at the end of the long table.    The man’s face had
      turned from red to a pale blue.    “Senator McAlpin?     Care to

      respond?”

              McAlpin blotted the sweat from his forehead and turned

      to Beckett for reassurance.    In a very confident voice he

      began. “Sacrifices must be made,” he said.     “These things I
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       397


      did, I did for everyone here.        The Russians were so far

      ahead of us in the Cold War, the freedom fighters we trained

      in Afghanistan had turned against us and had begun blowing

      up our embassies, and the organized crime families in Russia

      were building up an arsenal to take over when their

      country’s capitalism experiment failed.        And, gentlemen,

      during the height of the Cold War, I was tasked with
      changing the way we conduct the business of spying.        I doubt

      that any of you fine gentlemen, and esteemed colleagues

      could have come close to making the kind of decisions I

      made.    Does a leader risk the lives of a thousand men to

      save one?    Hell, no,” he said.      “Sacrifices must be made.

      And I was the one who had to decide who to sacrifice.

              “I sacrificed these orphans, gentlemen, so that the

      children you love could live free.        I sacrificed

      illegitimate children who would have likely ended up on the

      welfare roles with their mamas, digging for food from

      dumpsters.”    McAlpin opened his arms as if in a plea.

      “That’s all they were; just a bunch of illegitimate

      children.    We did the world good.”
              The whole room sat silently in disbelief as the Senator

      continued his tirade.         When he finished, he sat on the edge

      of the table ready to field questions like any other press

      conference.    But everyone seemed too bewildered to ask

      questions, or to even speak, and the Senator searched the
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      398


      room for a sympathetic face.       He had misread his audience,

      everyone was still in shock at his confession.       The Senator

      suddenly realized he was alone in his beliefs and no matter

      how he tried to explain his motives, he words would fall on

      deaf ears.    Even Beckett wouldn’t look him in the eye.

            Cranely motioned for the guard.       “By law I have to

      detain you, Senator,” Cranely said.       The guard reached for
      McAlpin’s hands, but didn’t reach them fast enough.

              McAlpin drew his handgun, and with one shot, took

      down the Marine guard.        Coop dove to the ground, tipping

      over a table in time for it to intercept the round intended

      for him.    From his position, Coop saw the desperate look on

      Beckett’s face as the Senator lowered the weapon on him.

      Beckett made a move to dodge it, but the round caught him in

      the left eye.

            The Senator faced the crowd, put the gun to his mouth

      and said, “Sacrifices must be made, gentlemen.”       There was a

      long pause before the fourth and final shot rang out; a

      pause long enough for everyone on the ground to look up and

      see the Senator put his lips around the barrel and pull the
      trigger.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       399




                                    Chapter 41


             Dorthy ambled over with the coffee pot and poured

      Tiffany a cup, then one for herself.       The weather was

      finally warming, and her arthritis was coming along much

      better.   The lunch crowd had died down and only three people

      were left eating.

             “Nice to have the tax man off your back, I’ll bet.”

      Tiffany said.     “It’s been two months since that stranger was

      here.”

             Dorthy nodded.

             “Are you sure it was that guy you remembered?”

             “I’m positive,” Dorthy said.    “I remember him plain as

      day.   He reminded me so much of Winston.”

             “Your first husband?”
             “That’s right,” she said.    “I was just pouring out the

      stale coffee and the fella walks in and sits down.      Since he

      was the only one in here, we chit-chatted for a while as he

      ate.   Said his name’s Cooper, he lives in Florida and was

      just passing through on his way to a family reunion.         He
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       400


      must have been hungry because he stayed for over four hours

      and ate three plates of bacon.        Then as he pays his check,

      that tax man walks in and starts running his mouth.”

            “What did his nails look like?”

            “I don’t remember, Tiffany.       I didn’t look.    He had the

      biggest blue eyes, though.        You would’ve loved them.   They

      reminded me of Winston’s.        Anyway, he says he’s taken enough
      of my time, gives me a hug, and leaves.        Three days later, I

      got a notice saying I was free and clear of all my taxes.”

            “Are you sure it was him?       Maybe they made a mistake?”

            “Don’t think so,” Dorthy said.

            “Was he married?        Maybe he’s still around.”

            “He seemed like a loner, Tiff.       He didn’t carry much

      baggage.”

            “Well, I guess now you’re a rich woman, Dorthy.        No

      more tax problems.”

            “I don’t think so,” she said.       “But a lot of other

      people seem to.     All I got is this job that pays $300 a

      week, and some stupid bank in Grand Cayman keeps sending me

      junk mail.”
            “Where’s Grand Cayman?”

            “South of Cuba,” Dorthy said and picked up the latest

      letter from the bank and tossed it into the drawer with the

      others.   “I’ve got $500 dollars in my passbook, and

      everybody wants to give me a gold card.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                   401


            Tiffany dug the out the envelope and opened it.      “Maybe

      you’ve accumulated some interest,” she said and scanned the

      statement.    She stopped scanning and set the paper down.

      “I’ll say you’ve gained some interest.    About one and a half

      million worth of interest.”

             “What are you going on about, girl.”     Dorthy snatched

      the statement from Tiffany’s hand.    “Let me see that.”
            Tiffany started screaming, dancing around the diner.

      “You’re a millionaire, Dorthy.    An absolute millionaire.”

            Dorthy looked over the statement.    This had to be a

      mistake.    “I’m calling the bank,” she said.   “Something must

      be wrong.”    She dialed the 800 number on the statement, and

      when customer service answered, Dorthy said, “I’d like to

      check on an account please.”    She gave the account number

      and some security information.

            “Dorthy,” the woman on the line said.     “We’ve been

      waiting to hear from you.     Didn’t you get any of the letters

      we sent.”

            “I thought it was junk mail,” Dorthy said.    “I’ve never

      done business with you in my life.”
            “You’re right, ma’am.    This account was open by someone

      who wishes to remain anonymous.    The funds are in an single

      account with rights of survivorship.”

            “Any idea who it is?”

            “There is a note here in the comments section that says
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                  402


      ‘Tell Dorthy she’s a woman any son would be proud to have as

      a mother.”        There was a long silence.   Dorthy didn’t know

      what to say.    The tears welled up in her eyes, and she

      recalled that she hadn’t had any of her spells since she had

      seen the stranger from Florida in her diner.     She broke down

      on the phone, dropping to her knees sobbing, wondering if

      there was any way her baby had lived.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      403




                                    Chapter 42


              It was now February and the lull of the winter months

      were a relaxing welcome for the locals.       Coop had finished

      the book and it was still riding high on the New York Times

      Best Seller’s list.      An L.A. production company had even

      expressed an interest in making it a movie.       But with all

      the attention surrounding the book, Coop managed to keep

      holed up in his house for the most part, venturing out only

      when he couldn’t stand being alone.        Today was on of those

      days.

              The winds were calm, and the beach was quiet.     Gone
      were the tourists, the college crowd, the families with

      screaming children.      Now it was the islander’s turn to have

      some fun.    The places weren’t pack and didn’t have that

      vacation attitude, but that’s what made it more intimate.

      It was a deep breath the island took every year before

      getting ready for the spring.

              Coop followed his regular path past the solar powered

      Hippy Hut, past the Miami Vice house, past Chung King
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                      404


      Palace, then down the bike path to Spot’s Exotic Animals and

      Gulfside Watering Hole.

            “You’re looking rather dapper today,” Spot said,

      reaching a beer out of the cooler.     “I haven’t seen you

      dressed up in a while.”

            He had worn his favorite khakis and thick navy blue

      cotton sweater over a white tee shirt.     “I’ve got an
      appointment,” Coop said.      “I’m meeting a woman.”

            “Well it’s about time.     I haven’t seen you with a woman

      since you got back from your trip.     I was beginning to get

      worried that maybe you really had given up women.”

            “It’s not that kind of meeting,” Coop said.       “It’s

      business.    Besides, I’ve haven’t had time for anyone since

      then.”   He also had no desire to meet anyone.    His life was

      working out fine.     He had a best seller, a new Harley, and

      he had taken care of his mother.

            He still thought about going back to South Dakota and

      telling his mother the truth.     She had lived her life

      without knowing she had a child, and had accepted it.       It

      seemed a cruel and selfish idea to force his desire for
      family on her.     If he did tell her, Coop would always wonder

      if it was his need for family, someone to love him, that

      would pull him to tell her, or would it be the selfless

      desire to share the truth.     He doubted the latter.    The

      woman he loved was gone forever, and his mother, someone he
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    405


      had dreamed and wondered about his entire life, was

      unapproachable.      He looked across the bar and realized the

      only relationship he had in his life was with Spot.

              “What’s so funny?” Spot asked.

              “Nothing,” Coop said.   “Why?”

              “You were laughing,” Spot said.

              “I hadn’t noticed.”
              The door creaked open, pouring in the sunlight.     Coop

      turned to see a familiar face.     “Ah, the mysterious Dr.

      Chang,” Coop said.

              “Hi guys.”   She was smiling, wearing a faded red

      sweatshirt and khaki shorts.     Her short hair was tucked

      behind her ears.

              Spot’s life had improved over the last year.   It came

      to light why Chang had acted as if she had seduced Coop, and

      why she was kissing Dmitri at Spot’s bar.     Of course she

      finally had to spell it out for him before Spot understood

      she had been trying to make him jealous.     She had admitted

      her attraction to him since day one, and for some reason,

      never trusted Anna.      She called it women’s intuition.   Spot
      and Chang had had been together since the Grits Incident, as

      they called it.

               “How are my two favorite nonproductive members of

      society?” she asked and tiptoed over the bar for a kiss from

      Spot.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        406


              “Living up to your expectations,” Coop said.     “He’s

      pouring and I’m drinking.”

              “Then pour me one,” she said.   “I want to do my part.”

              “Have you heard anything from the movie people?” Susan

      asked, as she settled onto a stool, watching Spot make her

      drink.

              “I’m supposed to meet with one today.      She’s passing
      through and wanted to ‘talk film,’ as she says.”        He sipped

      his beer.    “It’s probably just another whacko.”

              “Could this be her?” Spot said, nodding toward the

      door.    Coop and Susan turned on their stools.      She was a

      young woman.    Much younger than she had sounded on the

      phone.

              “She’s a pretty good looking whacko,” Spot said.

              “I’m here to meet Mr. Cooper Sumner,” the woman said to

      Spot.    She had a deep, husky, three pack a day voice that

      didn’t match her delicate, smooth face.

              “I’m Coop.”

              “Good afternoon, Mr. Sumner.    I’m Evelyn Warden of the

      Warden Productions.      We spoke on the phone.”    She stuck her
      hand out, erect, formal, too polite.      She wore thick, dark

      sunglasses that swallowed her most of her face.        She didn’t

      remove them in the dim light.     It was probably a “Hollywood

      thing.”    Coop introduced her to his friends.

              “Ahh, the mysterious Dr. Chang,” the woman said.
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        407


              Susan looked at Coop puzzled.

              “You’re in the book,” Coop admitted.

              “What about me?” Spot said.     “Guess which one I am.”

              “You, without a doubt, are Spot.”

              “Beer?” Coop asked, though he knew she probably wanted

      a wine spritzer or a bottled water.

              “Bourbon, please,” she said.     “Clean.”
              Spot obliged, and the two found a seat away from the

      bar.    “So you want to make the book into a movie?” Coop

      asked, not really sure how these conversations are suppose

      to begin.    She had a familiar face, like a face he had seen

      on TV.    He had been watching a little too much the past

      eight months.     Her red hair was the color of Ginger’s from

      Gilligan’s Island.      He still had no idea why he left the

      damn TV plugged in.

              “Yes,” she said.      “And I’m most interested in the

      relationship between you and the woman...Katelyn?        That was

      her name, right?”

              “Kathryn,” he said.

              “Whatever,” she said and sipped her drink.      “Forgive
      me, Mr. Sumner, but it all seems so quaint.         So neat,” she

      said.    “How could this all be true?”

              There was something about her he didn’t like.

      Actually, except for her choice of drink, there wasn’t

      really anything he did like.        She had no right to question
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                    408


      or ridicule how he felt about Kathryn.       “What’s your point,

      mam?”

              “My point is, did you fall in love with this Kathryn

      person because it was all so...convenient and tidy?       Or did

      you truly have feelings for her.       Audiences can detect that

      you know.”    She said it in such a snotty way, he didn’t want

      to continue the conversation and he sure as hell didn’t want
      this snob turning his book into a movie.

              “They were, and still are, quite genuine, Ms. Warden,”

      he said, trying to be calm.       Coop didn’t want to open wounds

      long closed by distance and time.       And he sure as hell

      didn’t have to justify anything to this woman.       If this was

      the way it was going to be, he didn’t want any part of it.

      “I’m sorry you came all this way for nothing, Ms. Warden,

      but if you’ll excuse me,” he said and stood.

              “I think it will work out fine, Coop,” she said, losing

      the husky voice.     It was voice he hadn’t heard in over a

      year.

              Coop looked down at the woman and slowly found his

      seat.    She had removed her dark glasses, and his eyes
      settled on her black pupils dripping into her green iris.

      Her hair had been colored, and restyled.       Her face was tan,

      her lips red and full.        She had even gained a little weight.

       He didn’t speak.

              “It’s me,” she whispered.     “Kathryn.”
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                        409


              He felt like his blood sugar dropped a hundred points.

      “But how?” was all he could manage to say.

              “Mallory.    It was all his idea.    He said I needed to

      have funeral.       He helped me out.”

              “But...” Nothing had ever left him this speechless in

      he life.    Across from the table was the only woman he truly

      ever loved and he didn’t know how to tell her.         He would
      remain cool and collected, and let her make the first move.

       “I haven’t stopped thinking about you since that day,” he

      said instead.       “Why didn’t you tell me?    You could have

      trusted me.”

              “You’re not pissed, are you?” she said and smiled.

              Coop remembered their discussion under the swaying

      oaks.    “No,” he said.       “But don’t expect me to be at your

      next funeral.”

              “I’m sorry,” Kathryn said.       “But Mallory said we

      shouldn’t tell anyone.        He said you didn’t have a need to

      know.    I hated to do it, but I had no idea you felt that

      way.    You should have said something sooner.”

              “I wanted to say something in the beginning.      But
      couldn’t.”    He had to restrain himself from leaning across

      the table to kiss her.

              “I wanted to come back sooner, but I kept remembering

      what you said about not going back and forth from the new

      life to the old.      Finally I just had to do it,” Kathryn
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                       410


      said, as she reached across the table for his hand.       “I

      missed you so much.      You’re all I could think about.”

             “I know how you feel,” Coop said.     Not a day went by

      that he didn’t wish she were with him.

             “Zachary and I have a little place on the beach in

      Belize.   It’s beautiful.      Every morning we walk along the

      shore and look for shells.       He’s learning how to snorkel.
      He even brought home a fish the other day.”

             “Sounds like you turned out to be a wonderful mother,”

      Coop said.

             “It’s so strange, Coop.     I can’t imagine not being with

      him.   I never realized how empty my life was,” she said.

             “I told you you’d do fine,” he said.

             “I’m still missing one thing, Coop.”

             “What’s that?”

             “You.”

             “Me?”

             “Why don’t you come down and stay for awhile.     We can

      take things day by day.       Zack is always asking about you.”

             “What about you?”
             “Me?” she asked.

             “You,” Coop said.      “Are you always asking about me?”
             “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t,” she said.

             Coop stood, lay five dollars on the table, and reached

      for her hand.     It fit in his like it was formed especially
Identity of Spies/Eric Kent Kline                                 411


      for it.   “Spot,” he said, tossing his house keys to him.

      “I’ve got to go out of town for awhile.   Do me a favor?

      This time, feed the cat.”

				
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